media update’s Nicole van Wyk looks into the world of citizen journalism and how citizen journalists use social media to engage with their audiences.   

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What is citizen journalism?

Citizen journalism is a branch of reporting that involves everyday people reporting on news as and when it happens around them. Anyone can become a citizen journalist —  all it takes is the ability to tell a good story. 

Citizen journalists use a number of mediums to get their news out, such as blogs, podcasts, Periscope live broadcasts the general public’s Tweets and Facebook pages commentary, to name a few.

Citizen journalism involves collecting information, analysing the collected information and then sharing the news.

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, voice recorders and any other portable device you can possibly think of are used by these journalists to convey their messages. 

Some examples of citizen publishers are:

How does social media drive citizen journalism? 

Citizen journalists establish their communities of viewers and readership by creating blogs or taking to the social media streets. The likes of Snapchat, Periscope, Twitter and Facebook Live all have a role to play in the land of citizen journalism. |

News reaches people fast enough for them to participate in ongoing events as the news breaks (how cool?), And these online communities have become known as ‘netizens’.

It’s easier for news to reach members of the general public when other citizens distribute the news. Think of how much easier it is for you to access your Twitter account and read news straight from your timeline as opposed to having to wait for that good ol’ 19h00 news bulletin

Stories are curated in a way that makes it relatable. This is because citizen journalists are not as far removed from the issues being reported on, whereas a traditional journalist views things from the outside looking in and tries to make sense of the events that have unravelled. 

A citizen journalist also doesn’t require as much funding or resources to publish a story. For the most part, this kind of journalist makes use of a cell phone in conjunction with Wi-Fi or mobile data to post breaking news and commentary on social media, reaching their audience within seconds. 

There is no denying the fact that social media can be criticised for creating a utopian society under the guise of citizen journalism.

Citizens may be in agreement and be exposed to only one narrative, but it is important to remember that citizen journalism allows members of society to tell their version of the truth and not a filtered version that strives for objectivity.

The way this type of news is shared shapes and influences beliefs and sentiments that are shared by a branch of an Internet community. 

The power of social media cannot be downplayed because citizen journalism is dependent on social media users’ content and commentary. This sets the agenda for the story, as opposed to traditional journalism that frames a story in order to push a particular predetermined agenda.

Is there a difference between advocacy and citizen journalism reporting? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Ready to take your citizen journalism up a notch and establish a professional career in journalism? Check out The beginner's guide to making a name for yourself in the journalism industry
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy