With technological advances of social media there are new opportunities for citizen journalism and social activism. The accessibility and ease of technology allows citizens to participate as much or as little as they desire. Although this is the case today it was not always this way as evidenced in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article where an analysis was performed on how traditional and new media covered three nuclear accidents. During the 1979 Three Mile Island journalism coverage reporters “had to scramble for phone access, standing in lines at telephone booths or paying local residents to use telephones to report back to editors or news directors.” (Friedman, 2011, p57) Radiation reporting was incomplete as “reporters did not know enough to ask the right questions” and the “language gap among the engineers, government officials and journalists.” (Friedman, 2011, p58) Fast forward to 2011 and the Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster and we see a completely different style of journalism occurring. Social media gave readers “links to and updates from other web and social media resources; readers’ comments were posted online, giving feedback to journalists and enabling dialogues that included opinions, answers to questions, and suggestions for other website s to view.” (Friedman, 2011, p60) The social media facilitated expert input to address knowledge gaps. The ease of technology permitted visuals that the average consumer could comprehend. The new citizen journalist created a win-win situation where news producers and consumers were satisfied.
The social media platform “Twitter further extends the potential participant base for citizen commentary. No one individual Twitter user is responsible for compiling, collating, and curating the available information on any given topic. Instead, it becomes a thoroughly collaborative exercise.” (Bruns, Highfield, 2012, p10-11) “Twitter effect allows you to provide live coverage without any reporters on the ground, by simply newsgathering user-generated content available online” (Hermida, 2012 p663) this was clearly evident in the Fukushima incident. Furthermore, when Bruns and Highfield carried out an analysis to identify the quantity of activity during breaking-news it identified that tweets and re-tweets increased 60% from normal usage. This statistic remained “constant regardless of the total number of unique Twitter users contributing to each hash tag”. (Bruns, Highfield, 2012,p19) The downside to utilizing Twitter and other social media is the effect on “newspapers in that they are downsizing and consequently buying out or laying off many specialty reporters.” (Freidman, 2011, p63)
So yes, opportunity abounds as citizens can actively participate in news discussions. “Journalism is evolving into a tentative and iterative process where contested accounts are examined and evaluated in public in real-time.” (Hermida,2012, p1) I suggest that this active participation will heighten interest and awareness of global events hence broadening knowledge. I finish by pointing you in the direction of Egypt and the now ousted leader Mohamed Morsi to see active citizen journalism in practice.
Bruns, A. & T. Highfield. (2012). Blogs, Twitter, and breaking news: The produsage of citizen journalism. pre-publication draft on personal site [Snurb.info]. Published in: Lind, R. A. ed. (2012). Produsing Theory in a Digital World: The Intersection of Audiences and Production. New York: Peter Lang. p15-32.
Hermida, A. (2012). TWEETS AND TRUTH: Journalism as a discipline of collaborative verification. Journalism Practice. 6:5-6, p659-668.
Friedman, S. M. (2011). Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima: An analysis of traditional and new media coverage of nuclear accidents and radiation. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 67(5), 55-65.