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citizen journalism

noun [uncountable]

the gathering and reporting of news by ordinary people rather than professional reporters

citizen journalist

noun [uncountable]

'… his dispatches have already given all of us a close-up view of the devastation and the ongoing efforts of Americans to help Americans who have been suffering from the aftermath of the hurricane … This is a good example of the citizen journalism concept that we Internet journalists are toying with these days.'

MaineToday.com20th September 2005

'With the tsunami on Boxing Day we saw the power of the "citizen journalist" in providing instantaneous footage of events when no camera crews or photojournalists were present …'

The Guardian 11th July 2005

Armed with a digital camera and blog software, anyone has the tools to become a reporter. Now it's not just the professionals who collect and disseminate information about what's going on in the world. The growing trend in citizen journalism, journalism by ordinary people on the street, is adding a new dimension to the way local, national and international news is presented.

proponents of citizen journalism argue that it reconnects news reports with the real concerns of readers and viewers

Citizen journalism, also sometimes described as participatory or public journalism, is the act of private citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting and discussing news and information. Citizen journalism empowers any person, including those often excluded or misrepresented by conventional journalism, to get involved in activities that were previously confined to the domain of professional reporters. Proponents of citizen journalism argue that it reconnects news reports with the real concerns of readers and viewers, focussing on the things that people care most about and that most affect their lives.

Among the most powerful examples of citizen journalists in action were the accounts of the Asian tsunami flood disaster on 26th December 2004. Well before professional camera crews and photo journalists were present, ordinary people on the scene with video cameras and camera phones were able to provide instantaneous footage of events. Now largely viewed as the tipping point for citizen journalism, the tsunami disaster inspired thousands of eye-witnesses to tell the world what they saw through the use of web-based media.

In reports of the London bombings of July 2005, citizen journalists were again the focus, when, within an hour of the blasts, members of the public were providing the world with images they had captured by hastily grabbing mobile phones from their bags or pockets.

Digital technology – the Web, blogs, wikis, digital cameras and camera phones – provides the platform for citizen journalists to operate, giving people at the scene of a newsworthy event the opportunity to share their experiences with a worldwide audience.

Conventional news organisations are increasingly seeing the need to embrace the role of citizen journalism. In the UK, the BBC has led the field in using images provided by non-professionals, sometimes also described as citizen reporters.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 16th January 2006.

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