Trust, Authenticity and Accuracy through Participatory Journalism

With the rise of new media, the narrative of the way news is publicised and spread has been altered. Significantly.

The publication of newspapers and the production of television news has always held significant barriers to entry, limiting the number of people who were, well, lucky enough to be able to report the news to the general public. These barriers included wealth, infrastructure, time, elements that an average citizen wanting to participate to journalism simply didn’t have access to. But the few who did became part of what is referred to by Jay Rosen in his blog post as “Big Media”. The select few that were lucky enough, or wealthy enough, to be part of the minute percentage of the population who, let’s face it, speak on behalf of the Earth. Those handful of people in charge of newspapers, magazines and television news networks decide which stories they think need to be heard, and they decide how we hear those stories. Rosen appropriately calls them “Big Media” because, though not very populated, the “Big Media” holds an enormous amount of power, more than most people give them credit for. He speaks from the perspective of the audience when he says that for some time, we were…

“…on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way… with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another.”

All that seems to have changed, it seems, with an increase in technological advancements, allowing for easy access to instant communication with a friend in another country, or, more importantly, a large number of people from around the globe at the same time. This last part is extremely important, because up until recently, the only way to economically communicate a large community was to franticly paste posters around a neighbourhood, which would have of course been time-consuming and utterly frustrating.

Now with a simple tweet, SnapChat selfie or Facebook post, people have the ability to publish anything they want to their friends and followers. The feat becomes even more impressive when we talk about blog posts or writing in a comment section. Suddenly, your voice echoes around the Earth to anyone with internet access. But all this power, it can raise certain complications. Without the use of editors and researchers and crews, how can we trust anything written by the public? With such a large quantity of publications made on any social platform every day, it gets harder to distinguish between sources we can and cannot trust. Through “Big Media”, at least journalists were paid to follow a certain code of ethics with their publications — no such list other than common courtesy exists in the world of social media, and even then it isn’t regulated.

But does this really matter? Sure, people do still need funded news that consists of research, interviews, extensive editing, etc, but in many ways, citizen journalism can prove much more valuable. The true, honest opinion of an ordinary citizen, not censored by a news network, not forced to go out of their ways to write their thoughts in an unbiased manner, provide a perspective that is more relatable to the rest of the public. The significant gap between those who report and those who consume has essentially been bridged to an extent — those who consume can now report with more ease. This reduces the autonomy and oligopolistic nature of journalism. With more variety comes more choice for the consumers.

“You were once (exclusively) the editors of the news, choosing what ran on the front page. Now we can edit the news, and our choices send items to our own front pages.” — Jay Rosen

What’s fascinating is that through this movement, certain people who would have originally not had the ability to make their way into journalism have now been given authority. Bloggers with large followings now have credibility, sometimes as much as any large news publication. The important thing is: we as a public now have a choice to decide what we deem authentic, trustworthy and accurate, and no longer limited to a handful of people who would decide for us.