One of the many things that the bombing incident in Boston taught us is that whether we like it or not, citizen journalism is very much a part of our culture. Twitter alone has revolutionized the field and drastically changed the way breaking news is covered.
The issue of citizen journalism has been a long debated one. Critics of this method say that it opens the door for haphazard news coverage. But proponents cite the issue of hidden agendas by the mainstream media outlets and claim that citizen journalists generally don’t have ulterior motives.
No matter what your view is on the subject it’s hard to deny its effectiveness when something happens like the occurrence in Boston on Monday. This editorial will hit stands Wednesday, but when it was written (Monday night) there were no major factual blunders that were acknowledged as of yet in the marathon bombing. This is partially due to the fact that there were so many people attending the marathon when the bomb went off that everyone instantly became a reporter.
The main channel by which the breaking news was reported was Twitter. Things like body count, number of people injured, pictures and videos were all tweeted immediately following the multiple explosions. People all over the social network were reporting several different aspects of the aftermath. Topics like the spotty cell service in Boston and which modes of transportation were shut down were all covered by citizens. This is not to say that professional journalists didn’t do their job, but the civilian presence during this story was very evident.
The event that unfolded was the most publicized incident since the shooting in Newtown last year; the difference between the two? People weren’t attacking an innocent person via Facebook because the media misreported the attacker’s identity.
The only bits of information that were reported seemed to be accurate and verified. The setting for this incident made citizen journalism a very real possibility. In a small town like Newtown there weren’t as many people there to cover the shooting. On the contrary, the marathon in Boston drew the masses which made it more plausible for ordinary people to put on their reporter’s caps.
There are several upsides to citizen journalism. For one, the reporter theoretically doesn’t worry about a profit for their efforts. Everything that is done is merely for the public’s best interest. Also, civilians dramatically outnumber the size of most media outlets’ staff. The economic state of our country hinders a publication’s ability to hire an ample amount of people, but citizen journalism remains unaffected by this. In addition, there’s an overabundance of angles presented and the speediness of the coverage is second to none. There’s typically no time wasted while a news truck is driving to the scene.
However, there are some downsides as well. The average person has minimal or no training in the field of journalism. This can get tricky when an ethical dilemma arises. Most professionals have been trained about what is ok to print and what is off limits. A citizen also doesn’t have the reputation to protect that news publications do. Inaccurately reporting something will have very few repercussions for an ordinary person. The uttermost opposite is true for a professional media organization. Credibility is the most important thing in journalism, and when a publication loses that it quickly kicks the bucket.
Our society’s view on citizen journalism is irrelevant as it is amongst us in this age of technology. It very well could be the way of the future as evident by successful instances like the one this past Monday.