Modern technology and the internet have equipped the average citizen with tools to publish news globally in an instant. Only, this doesn’t take 4 years to gain skills in. So why not just rely on the fact that we are citizens with rights and camera phones, and hope that we become Twelebs, Felebs and Instalebs over the next half a decade?
A South African platform for this form of journalism, Reporter.co.za calls it “news for the people, by the people”. So, does this mean that South African Media cares about citizen journalism? Yes there have been a lot of major shocking stories that broke because amateurs journalists took on the role of mainstream media. However, citizen journalism has received a lot of criticism and caused controversy.
Vincent Maher who teaches multimedia at Rhodes University had a lot to say about citizen journalism in a paper he wrote called “Citizen Journalism is Dead”.
“Citizen Journalism is dead. In fact, citizen journalism never lived; it was the hardening of a momentary ideal, puffed up with self-importance and glazed with a sweet optimism that kept us interested beyond its shelf life. But let me repeat, for the sake of clarity: Citizen Journalism, as a concept is dead, a dry bone to be tossed over the back fence.”
He criticizes we-media but was criticized himself for this by supporters of this form of news reporting. This led to him publishing another paper called Towards a Critical Media Studies Approach to the Blogosphere.
Many have however decided that they want to choose what to publish and to whom they publish it. This they say, is better than having mainstream media dictate to them what news is. They see it as a platform that could give a voice to those from the townships and villages so as to tell their stories.
Even though this is considered a form of journalism, there is a lot of controversy around it. People who work in the media industry believe that only trained journalists understand journalistic ethic and the kind of responsibility that comes with being one. Professional journalists know what they are talking about and why they are talking about it. The following video is focuses more on the ethical issues in journalism. The kind of impact a journalist or reporter can have on people (whether their information is correct or not).
We need to question if we can trust news which comes from non-established journalists. If this is the case, do we as aspiring journalists continue to work towards degrees in journalism? I see no point in going to school to end up doing the same job as any random person on the street with a smart phone and internet access. However, times are changing but we are fortunate enough to have our context and content set US apart from THEM is context.