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Citizen Journalism March 4, 2009

Posted by Ben Smith in Uncategorized.

This concept of citizen journalism is one that I find very intriguing. It is one that gives ‘power to people’ and anyone can be writers and give their take on an event. The idea was given a platform because of the arrival of blogging and has been growing ever since.

The true power that citizen journalism can have was seen with the Baghdad Blogger, Salam Pax, in 2003. His blog began upon the declaration of war on Iraq and continued right up to the start of the conflict. It gave a detailed insight into what day to day life was really like for citizens in Baghdad preparing for war. This was something that a qualified journalist in a Baghdad hotel could never gain access to. The strict censorship operating in Iraq at that time would have made it impossible. As the popularity of the blog grew it became recognised by the media and they realised that it could be a rich source for news. They were discussing what was being written and analysing it’s content. It is a success story for citizen journalism because the man behind that blog was yet another voice that wanted to be heard and he achieved that.

Another example of a success was The Policeman’s Blog where member’s of the police force are invited to share some of their experience of their job and importantly air some of their grievances in the process. This has the potential to be very effective to the police to try to improve the conditions which they are working under and become more effective in their job. It has given them a vehicle to expose to the public the needless bureaucracy that has been restricting the time they have to go and combat crime. It has also allowed them to reveal the failings in the criminal justice system. This useful because the larger it’s following is, it has more public support and pressure from them could hopefully change the way the police work for the better.

Finally I looked at Wikileaks, an information sharing site. It is a site that encourages people to leak documents onto it that expose information that they believe the public should know. This is a good idea in principle if it allows people to expose wrongdoings. However, there is a serious ethical issue of whether certain information is really in the public’s interest and should be released.

This is one of the problems surrounding this type of citizen journalism. Whereas professional journalists follow a code of practice restricting what they can publish it does not apply to citizen journalists. This means they may publish information that could have serious consequences for the people involved. An example of this was the recent publishing of the member list for the British National Party with their personal details. Although many of us condemn theirs views and activities it is still a legal political party and these people are within their rights to be involved with it.

It is vital to remember that publishing personal details is in breach of these people’s privacy and in this case could be detrimental to their safety. Individuals who have strong views against the BNP may wish to act on it and that puts the members at risk of being attacked. In light of this it can be said that their are many positives with citizen journalism; but it is important that those participating consider ethical issues within their work before releasing it into the public domain.



1. Steven Frazer Miller - April 2, 2009

Interesting post that explores and points up some of the issues and debates surrounding the idea of ‘citizen journalism’.

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