If you want to get a professional journalist or photographer boiling mad, tell them you prefer citizen journalism and blogging over traditional media methods. You will probably hear something like, “That’s not real journalism.” However, conventional journalism, like it or or not, must now share the limelight with self-proclaimed citizen journalists and bloggers who are gaining a foothold both in respect and popularity from people around the world who want to know current events.
While many bloggers still do not take the work of the new millennium journalism seriously, there are many who do. Blogging, citizen journalism and citizen photojournalism are serious careers that can no longer be overlooked or viewed as just part-time jobs or hobbies. This fact never hit home more than in Syria recently, when a citizen journalist was killed while doing his job. Rami al-Sayed, 26, an avid citizen journalist, died trying to report events via mobile telephone in Baba Amr, a suburb of Homs near his hometown. Journalists have always known that reporting the news could put them in danger, and as more average citizens take to the streets blogging and posting videos on the Internet, the danger could become more common. This is serious work, and it is time for all who claim to be citizen journalists, bloggers, content writers, professional writers or photojournalists to admit it and act responsibly and ethically.
I am not suggesting that everyone who plans on putting a comedy routine or dance video on the web should decide they are citizen journalists. Those types of videos have a place in the entertainment industry. I am referring to the careers of citizen journalism and blogging that have found their niche and are quickly changing traditional methods of mainstream media journalism. People who are blogging, photographing, podcasting and reporting on news events literally have access to the entire world. These new-age journalists are breaking ground, becoming entrepreneurs themselves by capturing minute-by-minute action footage that sells to newspapers, television stations and magazines, and also go viral on the Internet.
That said, the professionals who seek these careers should be cautious to produce only what is factual. Still in its infancy, blogging is hampered by the lack of workmanship and proof needed to make it fully respectable. The roadmap and groundwork for these new methods change almost daily because of advanced technology. The impact that this type of media has on the public is huge, as one single blog or photograph placed strategically has the potential to cause a stir heard round the world. Therein lies the danger.
Part of journalism ethics means being able to prove what you are claiming, and this responsibility sits squarely on the shoulders of the individual journalist. When you capture a photograph or event that could have global impact, make sure you have the right to post it and it is not taken out of context. When citizen journalists adhere to the high standards of traditional media that paved the way for new journalism, then their work will be taken seriously and professionally. That likely will happen on an individual basis.
Some writers are still worlds apart in adhering to and acquiring the ethics and knowledge required in order to produce trustworthy content. Professional journalists usually have college degrees and spend years honing their craft, while bloggers can set up a web page and start writing tomorrow with no prior experience. Traditional media methods have been one-upped by technology, allowing citizen journalists to record by smartphone or podcast events from a street corner. If you take this evolution of media seriously and are working to hone your journalistic skills, you must remain accountable in your work whether it is a social blog, content writing, reporting news, or video broadcasting.
New-age journalists can no longer be discounted as unreliable if they take their work seriously, remain true to the facts, and strive to be regarded as reliable sources for news and information. The value of the content is what is important, whether the public gets it via the Internet, through a social network, or from a newsstand. Traditionally, facts were checked several times before being released and stories were written and edited in the inverted pyramid style. Today, bloggers and citizen journalists serve as their own editors, so in addition to creating the content, they also have the responsibilities of editing and fact-checking.
I believe there is no greater example of freedom of the press than what is seen through the work of citizen journalism and media blogs. Everyone has the right to express their opinions. It has always been up to the readers to decide if they agree. It is up to each of us to carefully pave a new road for journalists, built upon the same ethical standards that the press has always adhered to, not only to gain respect in our own careers, but for the journalists who will come after us, judging how we did it and trying to find their way in a world of ever-changing media.
RHONDA D is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.