[Keyword: online journalism]. Citizen journalism as a buzzword seems to be gathering pace in newsrooms around the country, and at the same time losing some of its definition. Consider this report from the latest Press Gazette, categorised ‘citizen journalism’ and sneeringly headlined The day ‘Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’ took over the news room. It covers “a one-day project that handed over the production of evening flagship news programme South East Today, as well as BBC Radio Kent’s drivetime show and Kent’s Where I Live website to 14 licence fee payers.”
It’s a typical institutional response to citizen journalism: making ‘citizens’ into ‘journalists’ by bringing them into the institution itself. But the point of citizen journalism, it seems, is that citizen journalists operate outside of those institutions, and the processes and cultures that come with them.
Consider this quote from one of my online journalism students, Masum Ullah, who was asked to investigate citizen journalism as part of an assignment:
“The idea of a citizen journalist is to harness the power of the audience to participate in the news media. If we get articles and stories written by the people, we will get a totally different perspective to the news and current affairs.
“Citizen journalism websites open up to public comment which enables readers to attach comments to articles and also gives the opportunity for readers to react to, criticise and praise what’s published by professional journalists. This concept means we are getting different perspective of the news from the audience and the institutions. Both are interacting to give a new type of journalism and news. Readers of stories may want to make their own judgements or they might want to make the story better, so that effectively a news story will change all the time.
“Professional journalists and their readers are basically working together and combining their knowledge and expertise to provide a journalistic product. Everyone who contributes is helping each other by enhancing their understanding and knowledge of a particular issue or news story.”
If the BBC or Press Gazette had only done as much thinking as Masum, they might have done more than rely on their own institutionalised ways of doing things.