Tag Archives: #citizenjournalism

An Unpredictable Future

Media is constantly changing, evolving, and growing due to the influence of countless factors.  The media today is nothing like the media of ten years ago and the media ten years from now will be nothing like todays.  While knowing what the media of the future will look like is impossible we can look at how media has evolved up to this point, and how other major influences are currently evolving to make assumptions as to what media might look like in the future.

Technology, in my opinion, is the biggest influence on the media currently.  I believe this because of the power it gives media producers and consumers.  It is rapidly evolving, opening new possibilities for media consumption and distribution.  In recent years technology has given the former consumers the power to produce media and to gatewatch more effectively.  This has taken some of the power to gatekeep from the large media producers.  As technology evolves it will continue to change the dynamic between large media companies and the general public, hopefully for the better.

Over the past 50 years one of the most controversial and influential trends in media is the concentration of ownership.  We are down to so few companies owning most of the media that it is hard to imagine ownership getting any more concentrated.  This past week Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion, formerly the nations two largest cable companies will soon be one.  As greedy companies like Comcast continue to buy out every competitor how long will it be until our Big 5 become consolidated into a single conglomerate?  While the formation of one mega conglomerate is very unlikely, even the consolidation from five to four major media companies would give each company a great increase of power and influence.

Technology and ownership concentration are just two of many influences on the future of media.  Technology has given more people access to information and the ability for the consumers of media to become producers of media.  With this new increase in information and power the consumers can be better informed.  This will hopefully lead to larger concern about ownership consolidation.  The media has a enormous effect on everyone viewing it, and so it is important for the viewers to have an interest in knowing the truth about that media.  As we move into the future it will be increasingly important to be active viewers.  Looking to the future we can only hope that everyone does their part in staying informed and keeping the media working for the people.

Citizen Journalism in the Aurora Shooting

The citizen was 18-year-old Morgan Jones and he was the initiator of one of the biggest instances of citizen journalism today.  He was not the only citizen journalist but, he became famous for his Reddit thread on July 20, 2012. The crazy thing to me is that this Jones wasn’t even at the shooting.  He was sitting safely at home on his computer and saw one news update and immediately started his thread.  Jones began posting minute-by-minute updates on the story.  He used tweets from witnesses and victims, reports from traditional media sources and even information from police scanners.  The post even got to the point that reporters and news outlets used this Reddit post for their information because he had already dug it up.

This instance of citizen journalism (and citizen journalism in general) is really important because sometimes, citizens are the first responders and primary witnesses.  They were there, the reporters weren’t, let them tell you about it.  Even though Jones wasn’t there, he combined all the information out there to keep his feed going and get all of the information out to the public.  This citizen journalism was the quickest and most rapidly updated account of the shooting.   This instance shows the power of the internet for citizen journalism.  News programs can only get information out as fast as they can pull together the news team, pass information in between each other, then to the reporters on screen.  But on Reddit, citizens can come together to collectively determine the facts of a news story.  The citizens were editing each other.  This Reddit feed even was the FIRST place where the picture of the shooter, James Holmes, surfaced, which shows the power of the citizens.  When Jones was posting, he created “a cohesive narrative of the tragedy”.  It was found out also that Jones wasn’t just copying and pasting every tiny scrap of news; he was providing updates but also correcting old information that might be wrong and answering questions from other users, all to create the most complete knowledge of the incident.

This event was similar to traditional news reporting. He was up all night getting the information out there.  He became the go-to source for the event (for other citizens and news outlets), as just a kid sitting in his room late one night.  Some people would argue that posts like this lack the editorial processes of traditional journalism, which I would agree with sometimes but, in this case, the information was being edited by many citizens together, in real time, in a collaborative effort.  I would also argue that in a case like this on Reddit, you have access to a network of information that maybe the traditional news outlets don’t because of the HUGE amount of connections that occur that way through this one website.

This is the link to the actual Reddit feed from that night: http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/wv8t1/comprehensive_timeline_aurora_massacre/

I would say that this Reddit thread was an instance of both gatekeeping and gatewatching.  Jones was controlling what was going through and doing his best to get the most recent and factual information out as fast as possible.  This one person was behind the story getting all the information out.  But I would claim there was gatewatching as well because it was a curation of all of the information in one location.  The information was being evaluated and when it needed updating, it was updated because so many people were watching this specific gate.  I think that in this case the gatewatching and gatekeeping flowed really well together and mutually reinforced each other.  There was the obvious challenge of getting the truth out but the processes of gatewatching and gatekeeping worked so well together, that the truth was able to get out eventually, even if it took a couple corrections, or a couple more contributors from the world.

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The Phenomenon of Citizen Journalism

Journalism today is a profession that contains a number of different facets from the subject of your information, the way information is distributed, where it is distributed and even who does distributing.  Of course there are the major news media agencies like the New York Times, Fox, CNN, Huffington Post and so on but what about Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram?  As a whole, society now has access to not only a wide variety of information, but we also have the ability to distribute our own news while also influencing the major news agencies.  Although it may still be the norm to receive a formal education in journalism it no longer excludes the everyday Joe from doing his own reporting that may become the most viewed link on Twitter or Facebook.


Welcome to the phenomenon of citizen journalism.  Citizen journalism is when we as the audience begin to employ our own press tools to inform one another of events in a more personal and sometimes immediate way.  For many it is no longer about where the information came from but whether it is relevant to your current situation and interests.  We have the ability to talk about and share (to a certain extent) whatever information we would like and we are able to so no matter where we are through the advancement of technology. Cell phones and apps have given us access to distributing information wherever and whenever we would like with 24/7 audiences coverage.  Allowing us to manipulate, uncover or cover any type of news we would like.

Although a lot has changed in journalism, gatekeeping still exists but not at the level it once did.  Journalists may still be able to filter what they discuss within their news outlet but they are no longer society’s only source of information.  If we are unable to get what we want through the news media then we now have the option of finding the information on a blog, Twitter or Facebook.  Many major news agencies have accepted and may even value the citizen journalist.  Today the majority of news agencies even provide citizen journalist with their own news sections: CNN iReport, Fox uReport, and Citizen Journalist on NBC.  During the Colorado Springs wildfire many locals were capturing videos, photos and information, then in return distributing the information to the major news medias.  For agencies like CNN, Fox and NBC the citizen journalist is an easy and free source.


We may have the ability to report what we feel is news worthy but journalists have not lost control of the gate entirely.  What has now taken affect within society is gatewatching.  We are able to filter and curate the news and information that passes before us by identifying what is of most relevance to our own personal interests.  Through the use of social media we are able to like and follow the information that we find most interesting.  Through this process of picking and choosing we have created another gate in the search for newsworthy material.  The difference is we control this gate.  If during the Olympics I decide I want my Twitter account to be full of information covering partner ice-skating I have that power.  The interesting factor is that even though I am able to gather all this information elsewhere, once I become interested in a topic I still go to those major news agencies or turn on the T.V to get the full story.  These forces may be reinforcing each other through a type of compare and contrast between personal and corporate view but in the end there is still the question of credibility.  News agencies have professional training and immense resource that the average Twitter enthusiast probably does not have the same access to.  So yes, the citizen journalist is influencing and changing the ways we are able to obtain information but the professional journalist still maintain a larger amount of resources and therefore a higher degree of credibility.  

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