Journalism is the activity or profession of writing for newspapers, magazines, and news websites or preparing news for live and pre-recorded broadcasts. According to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s paperback book called, The Elements of Journalism, the primary purpose of journalism is to provide information to citizens to make them free and self-governing. There are two types of journalism, citizen and professional. Although both are categorized under journalism, there are many key differences between the two.
Citizen journalism is compiled by members of the public who take information into their own hands and distribute it themselves. A lot of their information comes from the media, i.e., Twitter, Facebook, etc.. This makes it quick and easy for citizens to get what they need to put a story together. Citizens are not restricted by where they can go or what pictures they can take pictures. Because the use of social media is so widespread, it is much easier for a citizen’s piece to go viral than it is for a traditional news reporter’s. However, there are some issues related to citizen journalism.
Citizen journalism is often found to be unreliable for a number of reasons. One is that citizens tend to spread incorrect, misleading information about situations. For example, there was a fake Apple press release saying that an iPhone could be fully charged in one minute by microwaving. This turned out to be untrue, and many people destroyed their phones trying to accomplish this process. Another reason is that untrained, unaccountable, and often times, unethical writers tend to put their opinions into their papers.
In order for a news article to be considered accurate, it must be free of any biased opinions, personal beliefs, or emotions from the writer. There are studies showing that most citizen journalists are writing for their opinions to be heard. This is the exact opposite of what should be done. In addition to this, some citizen journalists choose to remain anonymous. They believe that this will allow them to say what they want without being criticized, however, it is potentially dangerous.
A person cannot be traced if they blog anonymously, and this causes the issue of rumors and inaccurate information being spread to be very prominent. No one can check to see if the source is valid, so no one knows if the information is valid. This can be dangerous because a fake news story could potentially start a war over something that was not even true.
Whereas, a professional journalist’s approach is the exact opposite. They are trained to put their emotions and personal beliefs to the side when they write. The result allows the reader to form their own opinions based on what they read. Journalists are not allowed to write anonymously so that they are able to be held accountable for their piece, for better or worse. Even though professional journalists are trained and can provide accurate information, there is one major downfall — timing.
Professional journalists’ stories have to go to their editors before their work is published. They also are restricted from going to some places that citizens are allowed to go. Professional editors make sure information is accurate, something citizens do not have.
Being a citizen journalist seems to have a lot more perks than being a professional. It allows people to freely say what they feel without being judged and their information gets out to the public very quickly.
However, those exact things are what can be so dangerous. If the information is false or inaccurate, it can harm the public. It is best to leave the big stories that can alter how other people behave or how they see something to the professionals since they are trained for the job.
By Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Jeanette Smith
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Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Paul Saad’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License