By: Lindokuhle Mnisi
Citizen journalism is the fastest growing form of reporting in the entire world and it poses a threat to professional journalism. Citizen journalism is an emerging form of journalism that is radically different from traditional journalism in philosophy and in practice. It does not need a qualified person to do the reporting but it needs a resourceful individual who is willing to communicate anything to the people. Citizen journalism correlates with developments in digital technology: rapid global growth and use of the Internet.
The developments in digital technology are great improvement in the entire world. Life in the 21st century becomes easier everyday because of the advancement in technology. The form of communication has become an easy process as people manage to speak to families and friends across the borders on Earth. With the enhancement of technology on the picture, citizen journalism has emerged and is becoming a challenge to professional journalism. Citizens tend to take over the work done by qualified journalists because of the accessibility to technology/internet. Anybody is now able to communicate with the world and inform people about things happening around them, journalist’s job becomes threatened.
The easier accessibility of internet across the world has given anybody a chance and platform to be a journalist (citizen journalism) and puts a challenge to professional journalism. A normal person with access to internet can witness a burning house at a small town (such as Ermelo), and that person will take pictures first and then ask around what caused the fire, then the next five minutes he will write on a facebook status or twitter. That would have been a front page story for a community/national newspaper, but because people have already seen the pictures and already know the story behind the burning house they will not buy then newspaper.
Social media is also the biggest challenge to professional journalism as it allows anybody to communicate to with the public. Facebook and Twitter are the fastest growing social mediums where millions of people meet to discuss issues. Anything that is happening in this world is trending on these social mediums. When there’s a soccer match at Loftus Stadium, people who have not gone to watch the match will not wait for tomorrow’s paper of a bulletin to know how the game went because citizen “journalists” will have already broken the news via the social networks. That puts professional journalism at stake.
The increase in the number of “Start-Phone” devices threaten professional journalism and hence promote citizen journalism. These phones have cameras with video cameras and they make it easier for any person to take pictures and footages and upload to their blogs, websites or even on the social media. These phones have internet access and email, any person is able to forward something to the next person and it spread to the whole world.
Many media houses have taken a resolution of creating online websites for their publications so that their journalists can be able to publish/report stories immediately as it happens. To avoid being outdated, they have decided to pressure the journalists to act faster than citizen journalists. Now citizen journalists are also able to forward what they have witnessed to the media house of their choice. If a person collides with a story, they can take pictures and forward them to any media house.