Mapping the citizen news landscape: blurring boundaries, promises, perils and beyond
Editors: Vos, T.P.
Publisher: De GruyterAbstract:
Within a short space of time, citizen journalism went from something of a novelty to a naturalized part of the news ecosystem and entered the daily language of journalists, journalism educators and a large segment of the global public. As the prolific body of empirical and theoretical research into this phenomenon continues to expand, however, “discourses of citizen journalism reveal an array of virtues in the opinion of advocates striving to transform journalism by improving its civic contribution to public life – and conceal a multitude of sins in the eyes of critics intent on preserving what they perceive to be the integrity of professional practice – in complex, occasionally contradictory ways” (Allan 2013: 8). This chapter offers a necessary critical overview of citizen journalism in its many forms and shapes, with a focus on its promises and perils and what it means for the future of news. We will start with a review of the concept of “citizen journalism” and its many alternative terms, then move to brief note on the long history of citizen journalism, which dates back to the early days of the printing press. This will be followed by our typology of three major forms of citizen journalism (CJ) – citizen witnessing, oppositional CJ and expertise-based CJ – along an assessment of each form’s primary actions, motives, functions and influences. The penultimate part of the chapter will focus on CJ’s flaws and pitfalls – especially the mis/disinformation environment it fosters and the “dialogue of the deaf” it engenders – and place them in the context of the post-truth era to highlight the still critical need for professional journalists. The chapter concludes with a brief review of the understandably but unnecessarily uneasy relationship between citizen and professional journalism and calls for the latter to adopt a new attitude to work well with the former.