Evolving Journalism Within Limits

A new era of journalism is upon us, as cliche as that sounds. It is important to recognize the influence of citizen journalism in today’s circulation of news through new media. The term of citizen journalism is relevant to anyone who is actively participating in the role of reporting, researching, and analyzing news. However this has changed significantly with the introduction of new media and all of its game changing aspects for the field of journalism.

Image by María Clara Cobo, Camila Vásconez, Juliana Zeller

“Newspapers are dying! Journalism is dead!” Is anyone else getting sick of these phrases? Often when people believe journalism is dying they are mistaking it for evolving with the advancement of technology and platforms for broadcast. By using digital technology we can enhance mass communication throughout the world on newsworthy events. Since new media is readily accessible to many citizens, participatory journalism starts the second someone takes out an iPhone in the field.

The idea of a free press exists not without its consequences. For certain actions, an ethical code has been developed to help shape the morals and intentions of citizen journalists in order to make participatory journalism smart and effective throughout the world.

Ethical Issues with Citizen Reporting

Where do you cross the line between “journalist” and “just some other punk with an iPhone”? Citizen reporters are not bound by a job, commission, or really anything that can tie them down to the field of journalism. Sometimes they just happen to be in the right place at the right time. This can make citizen reporting untrustworthy from time to time because they are not trained journalists in the classical perspective.

It is important for citizen reporters if they choose to use new media to participate in citizen journalism to remember that their journalism is a new branch that is evolving from the classic view of the field. From this, they will need to understand that until citizen journalism becomes prominent and the new normal, themselves and their work cannot always necessarily be held at the same level of a journalist who has studied theories and practices of the field. Some people would prefer the training over the participatory culture, and this causes an ethical issue of where it is okay to act as a reporter.

Participatory journalists will not expect to be viewed as a reporter in a situation where the intent was not to go out and report on a newsworthy event and they do not have any specifics to their reporting method. When acting as a reporter through the partaking of citizen journalists, they will be held to the ethical standards many journalists abide by and will be treated as such should they be viewed as another reporter.

Presentation as a Journalist

When the intention exists that a citizen journalist is going out to report on a newsworthy event for a platform of new media, such as a blog or a podcast, presentation as a citizen journalist is key. It is important to remain courteous and abide to rules and etiquette that other reporters are following in the field. Additionally citizen journalists will be held to the same “conflict of interest” standards as journalists typically abide to. If there is a conflict of interest, the citizen journalist should not be reporting as a personal or financial involvement can shape the way the story is seen by the audience as well as the journalist’s reputation.

Finally, it is important to realize that through the usage of new media, often your private new media accounts will be associated with your work as a journalist should you not separate the two. Therefore maintaining a clean and professional image of oneself online will develop their professional presentation as a journalist and assist in their career.

Censorship

Citizen journalists will work towards reporting the truth and not censoring aspects within their story for sake of their bias, personal involvement, or to shape the outcome or view of a story. By reporting freely through the usage of new media, it is essential to showcase the truth and not shape the newsworthy event from something seen as news to something seen as entertainment. Maintaining accuracy through components such as fact checking will be important and referenced. If stating facts and evidence as a citizen journalist, personal research must be seen that the journalist has put in effort to identifying these validities and where they can be sourced from. Not doing so will tarnish the journalist’s reputation and the community of citizen journalism as an emerging workforce. Therefore in order to maintain the high standard of citizen journalism while they evolve into something more regularly used in news reporting, censorship will not be allowed with the exception of protecting a source or witness through censoring names for their own protection.

Bias

Bias should not be seen in a report by citizen journalists in an ideal world. However bias is inevitable and since a lot of citizen journalists are reporting via their own platform within new media, it is nearly impossible to eradicate bias. That being said, bias should be kept to a minimum in reporting pieces although useful in opinion pieces. As writers, you are free to showcase your beliefs and opinions through your writing. However as citizen journalists, it is important to remember your goal is to showcase the newsworthy event in the most factual and captivating way through new media and participatory culture. Bias will override the factual evidence in most reports and tarnish your reputation as well as the reputation of other participatory journalists.

Usage of New Media in Reporting

Through the evolving of new media in this day and age, the usage of new media in citizen journalism is important to showcase factual evidence, live broadcasts, and by providing a useful platform. Citizen journalists should take caution that they must abide by the rules and regulations determined by their platform of new media in order to partake in participatory journalism through their media outlet. For example, if you are live tweeting a news event through your Twitter account please be aware of Twitter’s rules and regulations to what you can and cannot do on Twitter and how this can have an effect on your journalism. Through following these rules and regulations, citizen journalists can take advantage of the large amount of new media available to them for broadcasting and can attract a wider audience for their journalism.

Privacy

All individuals are held up to standards of maintaining their own privacy. This being said, citizen journalists will not partake in the actions of harassment through constant contact, involvement in personal lives, spying, or any other immoral techniques to damage a citizen’s privacy. This includes offering the option to censor their name and protect them as a source for a story. This creates a stronger bond between citizens and participatory journalists as well as maintains privacy for safety and personal reasons for individuals.

Citizen journalism is new and exciting, and will significantly impact how the world receives their daily news through the growing component of new media. Journalists no longer have to be defined as journalists by a degree, but can partake in the practice through the evolution of new media and definition of journalism. However through this, citizen journalists must abide by a certain code in order to prevent problems and destroying the growth of the citizen journalism community. These basic ethical guidelines can be developed further for individual citizen journalists, but this foundation helps establish the goals for citizen journalists and the means in which they go about to achieve that within ethical boundaries. By establishing this we can prevent bad scenarios of journalists with little to no professional training practicing in the real world, and turning it around by providing citizens with means to report and guidelines to follow. By doing this, journalism will drastically change and the amount of coverage we can obtain from everyday people will significantly enhance the industry and its followers.