There was a time when, what you got out of the paper or the publication was the sole product of the news brand and the journalists responsible for telling the story to the masses. The millions of people out there? They were simply consumers, maybe helping to enrich the content through an eye-witness account or some inside information. But their participation was strictly left to the journalist, and the editor.
Today, there's a new form of journalism that materializing right before our eyes. It's called Citizen Journalism, and it's shaking the news tree like never before. Think about it...there are millions of people out there...each with a story, a new perspective, a different experience. With the propagation of modern technology like cell phone cameras, computers and the wealth of outlets the Internet provides, how people get their news is rapidly transforming from one stoic voice to the cry of millions of passionate people looking to be heard.
While the traditional news media has scoffed at the idea that common, everyday citizens have the power to enrich how issues and events are covered, the world is seeing examples of it everyday. The fact that consumers are everywhere, that virtually nothing that happens goes unseen, is creating a market for what's witnessed and bringing to life those first-hand accounts, adding depth and detail to a story.
Saying it is all fine and well, but what are the examples of Citizen Journalism, what's the proof that traditional news media and professional journalism aren't still in the drivers seat? There are hundreds of examples out there but let's just focus on a few.
The shootings at Virginia Tech just a few short years ago, the images from this horrible event weren't captured by a reporter and his trusty cameraman, but instead crudely captured on a cell phone camera...by a student...in real time. The bombings of The Tube in London, the crash of U.S. Airways Flight 1549...all examples of where everyday citizens have taken the lead on a major story, just by being there and having the technology to record the events that would create history.
But, these are major stories and not all news is of this variety. What's great about Citizen Journalism is that it doesn't have to be a headline story or big breaking news. In the digital press, Citizen Journalism can show up as a comment to an article, a piece of local news, a first-hand account of a local town board meeting. There are virtually thousands of avenues that Citizen Journalism can take.
Still, it can be an uncomfortable proposition for a publisher, allowing readers and interested citizens the chance to speak their minds. After all, it's your brand that's behind the story. But it can be controlled, your digital publication getting its proverbial feet wet by allowing simple reader comments to start. Or setting up an open source dialogue between Citizen Journalists and staff journalists. Over time, Citizen Journalism can evolve and become a valuable part of your content, supplementing stories and creating new venues for readers to explore.
Regardless of how uncomfortable the thought of allowing average citizens to create content for your publication, it's happening. Those who accept the change and embrace the propagation of Citizen Journalism, have the opportunity to do so at their own pace. Those who resist, will eventually fall by the wayside, their content diminished by the richness of their competitors.
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