Citizen Journalism Pros and Cons

Imagine walking down the street of your own city and seeing something crazy happen, a car crash, a protest, or even an escaped zoo animal cruising down the sidewalk. You have to share this with the world!  You pull out your phone and take a video. Later, you post it online for millions to see. You’ve just become a citizen journalist! Citizen journalism is when news stories are reported, recorded, or written and published by a non-professional. Many journalists don’t like this term because they do not believe journalism can just be reported by anyone but is a professional discipline with certain standards. However, with so much access to public media and social networks it’s becoming easier and more popular to be a citizen journalist. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, there is an entire newspaper in South Korea that operates off of over 2,000 citizens sending in their own citizen journalism pieces.

Citizen journalism can be a great tool and an asset to the world of sending and receiving information. By definition, anyone can be a citizen journalist, there is no special training or equipment required. This gives everyone an opportunity to give voice to news or topics of their choice. Additionally, people can report about things that are smaller scale or more specialized. Citizen journalism allows citizen reporters to get very close to topics in their local community or allows them to report to a smaller niche audience instead of news that is geared for a wider audience. Another strong advantage of citizen journalism is that it can take viewers into the action that reporters may not always get to experience. If an ordinary person is making a broadcast there aren’t as many rules, expectations, or regulations as to what they can do or where they can go. This allows citizen reporters to be fully immersed in the action of a story if they choose. For example, if there is a march or protest, a citizen journalist could fully partake in the action while filming and talking to other participants as he or she goes.

Since there are no boundaries or rules in place when it comes to citizen journalism, the report can get out of control, violate laws, or be untruthful. Citizen journalists don’t have television stations or new sites to sensor their content. There could be sensitive or inappropriate material in any report. Additionally, the journalist can knowingly or unknowingly break privacy laws or copyright laws. Arguably, the biggest concern is that it’s likely that no one fact checks the reports. People can publish anything they wish and say it is reliable news. There is also a good chance that the journalist may claim to be reporting facts but is actually reporting with bias or an agenda on a topic. An example of this would be if a citizen journalist is reporting on a crime in his or her town. The journalist may have a relationship to victims and strongly skew the facts to point fingers at a particular suspect if the reporter thinks the suspect committed the crime, even if he or she didn’t.

Citizen journalism is tricky because many of the qualities that make it such a helpful tool also make it risky. Freedom of journalism is a great thing, but it can go poorly very quickly. The same goes for journalists who are unaffiliated with certain networks, on one hand they could be seen as an objective source, but on the other you may never know if what they say is bias. The key is balance. Citizen journalism offers a unique perspective on many topics. However, while watching, viewers must realize that it is a citizen reporting and not a professional, therefore not every bit of information may be true or objective. When creating citizen journalism, it is important to keep audience in mind and ensure the story is factual and fair.

Why Mojo is the Future of Journalism

In 2007 the world changed forever. The way that people communicated, listened to music, received information, created and shared content was revolutionized by the release of the iPhone. Smartphones today can do pretty amazing things. The cameras are so good that in some cases they can even replace fancy, hundred-dollar studio equipment. This is how Mobile Journalism began, Mojo for short. Mojo allows anyone with a smartphone to become a journalist, reporter, and vlogger. It is a digital form of storytelling where stories are filmed and edited on a smartphone. Many mobile journalists use other equipment to enhance their video and audio such as tripods to stabilize video and a microphone that can be plugged back into the audio jack on the phone, but the smartphone I still the heart of the operation.

So why go Mojo? Well, there are a lot of benefits to using smartphones to capture and tell stories. First off, it is extremely cost efficient. In today’s day and age just about everyone has a smartphone, so there is no need to buy an expensive camera. The only other equipment needed (which is optional) is a camera stand, microphone, and extra light, all which can be found for under a hundred dollars. Second, Mojo is super easy to travel with and transport. Since its just on your smartphone you’ll most likely be taking that wherever you go anyway. Whether you’re chasing a story or just happen to be out and stumble upon something that would be great to record, you are ready for action. For planned travel for stories, most equipment can easily fit in a backpack and is lightweight. Ideal for walking or air travel.

A lot of times Mojo can be more discreet and mobile, which is key as a good journalist. Filming events such as protests, private or personal situations, or even events when bulky cameras aren’t permitted can draw unwanted attention and compromise a story. So many people film on their phones every day that no one will even give you a second look while capturing a story. Interviewees may also get intimidated by high-tech camera and sound equipment. Being filmed on an iPhone is more inviting and casual, making for a better interview. The mobility of smartphones allows for video where big film equipment may not fit, like in the depths of a cave, in a thick jungle or other small, cramped areas.

Marc Settle, former BBC Journalist and current trainer at the BBC College of Journalism, offers some advice on how to be a successful mobile journalist, he writes, “an external battery is a must, and maybe a mobile hotspot, too.” While Mojo has a lot of benefits there are still some things journalists must be aware of. Connectivity is vital. Without WIFI or some sort of internet connection live broadcasts cannot work. Phone battery life is also a matter to consider. While the iPhone batteries are improving with every model, there is still possibilities of a phone dying during an interview or while filming. Mojo is a great tool for anyone who wants to be a journalist. If works for amateurs who work independently and cannot afford lots of equipment or professionals who want the benefits of a small, mobile, and discreet way of filming.

If you want to learn more about Mobile Journalism check out this video: