Citizen Journalism and its Impacts


Documenting the present, studying the past and foreseeing the new has always been the one area that Man has developed. From olden methods of carving incidents on cave walls to the current day Internet technology, things have progressed extremely quickly in the world of journalism. Today, as people gain more opportunities to take advantage of the vast technologies present, they start to use it to describe certain interesting incidents that occurred throughout their day, or even use it to express their opinions about the events in their country or the world. The revelation that nowadays, anywhere, anytime, people can post anything is catching fire, and this has created much craze about citizen journalists.

Before plunging directly into the impacts of this new trend, let us first examine the work of a citizen journalist. He is not trained officially in the art, but is instead part of the general population of people that have interest in a certain topic and have decided to air their views. He also writes on informal platforms, for instance through their blogs, where many people usually look towards. Although journalism is definitely not new, the process of citizen journalism is different. It usually depicts the certain event much more simply, and its research may not be as greatly done.

Then what are the different impacts of this novel idea? Pessimists argue that such websites allow for the propagation of certain opinions that are not well substantiated. This may erupt into assertion wars, with both sides merely asserting to the other that they are correct in every sense. What is so inherently harmful about this kind of discussion is that it breeds unhappiness, and given the fact that the Internet is less restrained than face-to-face interaction, fiercer arguments are formed. One good example would be STOMP in Singapore. It is dedicated to certain submissions of uncivil or discourteous behavior, which means that it gives way for multiple criticisms. On the other hand, this argument is hinged on the assumption that many people will accept such criticisms badly, or will follow through with such discussions. Many people in society are becoming much more civilized, with a majority able to tell what is reasonable and what is not. This means two things. First, more people will restrain themselves, and will not post such assertive comments because they know that they will be criticized for it. Second, people that see such insensitive and hurtful comments are willing to rise up against it. For instance, in the incident where the Permanent Resident student from NUS commented that “Singapore has more dogs than humans”, people immediately showed their disapproval towards him. This shows that society has the ability to discard and reject such harmful comments. Citizen journalism, in fact gives way for people to open others eyes to certain trends that are worth taking note of. If they are true, then people will definitely accept such comments, and this breeds more constructive comments.

Opponents of citizen journalism also comment that citizen journalism destroys the value of traditional journalism because its speed becomes the only reason why the latter is viewed more. They claim that therefore, people only see one side of things that people have chosen to talk about, and they do not see the well-vetted, researched topic that traditional media brings about. On the contrary, the entire reason for citizen journalism to become more speedy and far-reaching is that it can give a summary of events to more people, and a faster rate. In order to attract people to see their article, citizen journalists are obviously going to choose to comment on the more prevalent areas of the news and its main points, and this is sufficient. Once it piques the interest of readers, then the readers will have a greater incentive to look at the traditional journalist’s article, to understand the topic better. Its great speed and reach also allows for the expression of better values in society. For example, news of a catastrophe reaches people faster, and this means that help can be delivered faster. In the 2008 Mumbai bombings, it was a means through which people gathered information to create a more organized scene. In addition, since the general younger population is turning to such simpler ways of reading the news, it is much easier and effective if corporations and governments reach out to this new section of people through citizen journalism platforms. For example, back at home in Singapore, during the General Elections, the government used Facebook and Twitter to update voters of their newest developments, which means that more people are essentially going to be involved in politics at a young age, something that Singapore’s government seeks to do. Obviously, citizen journalism puts a different spin to things, making life more interesting and allowing people more opportunities to be active in modern society.

  Critics mention that people start to abuse the media more. One characteristic of citizen journalism is that it goes viral like a wild bushfire, which indicates that people tend to exploit certain aspects of the news, without considering the wider scheme of things. As a result, many people are wrongly drawn into such false concepts which breed a lack of trust in citizen journalism in the long run. However, it is exactly this characteristic that allows people to form more meaningful groups with a common interest. Citizen journalism makes use of the vast internet space to develop its own form of discussion, for example in Facebook groups or blogs. In such Web 2.0 technologies, people can respond to the posts made, and give their own opinions, and here is where more ideas are thrown into the mix for consideration. This marketplace of ideas gives space for many more ideas to be refined, so that a better understanding is held in this community of people with similar interests. For example, WikiNews is a web-based framework that runs parallel to the worldwide know Wikipedia. This gives opportunities for people who are excited by similar concepts to share their knowledge amongst each other. Therefore, this improves the understanding of many people.

In conclusion, the impact of citizen journalism is vast, and it will become a powerful tool if applied correctly. The questions to ask ourselves – how do we best mitigate the different forms of harms that may come about? And how do we allow ourselves to further boost and accentuate the benefits that are presented.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.