2007 the year of Citizen Journalism?

September 9th, 2007

Blogs and Social Media have revolutionized how people receive news and information. Traditional News outlets must evolve fast or face further loss of readership and advertising. The main reason for this trend is the shift in readership towards Web sources. Even there, social media is keeping online Main Stream Media (MSM) sites on their toes. Journalism has now morphed into a mix of professional reporting and active reader participation.

Citizen Journalism (also called participatory journalism or grassroot journalism) is when people provide news stories, photos, videos and contribute to the evolving news stories. There is a lot of debate on defining or re-defining this term. From my understanding, the general idea is that amateurs reporting news in collaboration with journalists is “participatory”. This is different from opinion blogs, punditry and monologues where individual (or a group of) bloggers comment on current affairs.

Here is a timeline of some of the important developments that are shaking up the fourth estate:

  • 2007, September: Google News recently announced partnerships with Reuters and AP to host stories directly on Google.
  • 2007, September: English version of Wikinews reaches 10,000 articles according to Wikipedia.
  • 2007, August: Google News to include comments from people in news.
  • 2007, August: NY Times Select Content to be free.
  • 2007, April: News stories ranging from earthquake reports to heroic rescue efforts are breaking news on Twitter. IMHO, this is an exciting development.
  • 2007, July: NowPublic, a social media news site is named as one of the 50 best websites by Time.
  • 2007, March: AssignmenZero meets Wired to connect journalists with citizens.
  • 2006, December: Yahoo and Reuters launch YouWitnessNews.
  • 2005, November: Alive in Baghdad, a weekly video blog posts the first video.
  • 2005, July: Pictures of London Bombing from Flickr were being used on several news sites.
  • 2004, November: WikiNews launched as a project by Wikimedia foundation.

Based on these trends it looks like Citizen journalism is bound to become more important and will attract even greater participation (in terms of both readership and contributions). Many MSM sites like MSNBC (CJ report) and CNN (iReport) are already encouraging user supplied news content. I notice that Indian News media is also adapting fast. I think for most Indian News sites, user comments and discussions have become a standard feature now. This is the very first step in moving towards accepting citizen journalism in main stream media. US News sources have been rather slow in either implementing or promoting this.

I think there are a few things that we might see evolve as we move into the next year or so:

  • Importance of citizen journalism in reporting (hyper) local news will grow.
  • MSM sources will continue to drag their feet at accepting the challenge even as new News sites start becoming popular.
  • A Citizen journalism code of ethics will evolve. It is only a guess, but some people might go to any extent to report a news story or become “famous”. Thats dangerous!

[Image Courtesy: CartoonStock.com]