The impact of citizen journalism: good or bad?

Angelina Niederpruem

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Due to the emergence of new media, the readership of traditional media is declining. Public participation in the news process leads to independent online journalism. Both the markets and the technologies are growing steadily and at the same time, the availability of media services has grown. In fact, most people today use Facebook, blogs, and Twitter as their primary source of information and news.

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The journalistic landscape is changing. Especially on the Internet are new forms of journalism available. The traditional media, on the other hand, is under pressure. The reasons for this are reduced budgets due to falling advertising revenues, the often free online competition, crises of confidence and the unanswered question about the business model for the journalism of the digital future.

Digital transformation has also brought new actors into play: citizen journalists who communicate and publish in a wide variety of forms. Thus, e.g. rewards the readership reporters for submitting photos. Local and daily newspapers let citizens write columns about their district. Citizen journalists open blogs on their own or are given the opportunity by large newspapers to publish on their website in blog-like formats. Often newspaper readers get online a discussion platform among the articles provided. The spectrum is large and hardly explored due to its constant change. To what extent does citizen journalism change the public and their perception?

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Essential to the development of citizen journalism was the ability to distribute self-generated messages over computer networks. Finally, Web 2.0 has improved all forms of citizen media: social media emerged alongside web-based communities, social networking sites, wikis, and blogs. And on these platforms not only articles and texts were shared. Mobile phones today include the ability to share images, video and web content with just one click.

YouTube was founded in 2005, allowing anyone to create their own video channels and contribute messages. This new form of journalism has also changed media consumption: technology has filled the world with a flood of undifferentiated information, changing the audience for messages and information from passive recipients to proactive consumers who share what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

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Mass communication is based on public opinion. People look after and are interested in what the newspapers and the media are telling them. Often the Mass Media has an effect in changing the human behaviour through the interpersonal communication about a topic. Both positive and negative, media reality can influence thoughts and beliefs. The audience knows a media reality and not the reality in general. This is also improving by the phenomenon of citizen journalism.

Impulses are offered to citizen journalism mainly by the crises worldwide. Citizens now have the opportunity to provide photos and reports where there are still no journalists on the ground. For example, during the violent outbreaks in Turkey in 2013, citizens’ deep dissatisfaction was revealed through blogs, open letters, videos and pictures through citizen journalism. Especially the social media tool Facebook was used as the main source of the information. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the social media “the worst menace to society” and accused citizen journalism of spreading lies about the protests.

Citizen journalism offers a great opportunity in countries where the media, especially the mainstream media, are limited. Businesses know that citizen journalism has a lot of potentials and that this area is a growing and underdeveloped area. The collaborative model Wikipedia has managed to beat its commercial contributors in breadth, depth and time, thanks to citizen journalists. They are no longer just consumers of content, but active producers who participate in the content and events.

And let’s be honest: who has never made a comment on an intense topic. The only difference is whether you say it out loud or if you let your friends and followers participate on your social media profiles.

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Angelina Niederpruem