When old media was dominant conversations were individual, just a discussion between two people or two groups over the telephone or through letters. When mass media came to rise the conversation was often one sided, we consumed information and had limited channels through which we could respond. New media now provides us with a combination of individual and mass communication. The feedback loop is more efficient than ever before and participating has become its own reward as the prosumers hold the power.
Legacy Media used to be the only place we could access news and events. They would make the news, tell you the news and we would consume it. Now, with micro blogging platforms like twitter and citizen journalism sites like CNN iReport, we can have access to millions of different stories, millions of viewpoints and millions of conversations.
We all know that not every viewpoint is… well, worth listening to. Take twitter for example, it is designed for sharing moments of your life (be it momentous or mundane) in real time and helping create connections over distance. There are millions of 140-character tweets that mean nothing (although even these ones have contributed to conversations). However as twitter has developed (and it is it’s users that have really developed it), many unknown and important uses have surfaced. One is its coverage of real time events, which not only users turn to for information but also legacy media outlets (Williams, 2009).
This is where citizen journalism and twitter meet. The advent of social media and blogging means that the role of the citizen journalist is becoming more valuable than ever. Transnational corporations like Disney, Time Warner, News Corp and Viacom have always dominated the global media market. However as social media sites become more and more dominant in the media world, dynamics are beginning to change (Revis, 2011). The many-to-many nature of these sites allows for unique perspectives as well as providing a breath of fresh air for those societies herded by mainstream media giants.
The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements have already shown the democratising ability of digital media. Mobile technologies combined with Twitter have allowed citizen journalists to broadcast stories that may otherwise have been silenced. This advent of user-generated content will only continue to strengthen, as traditional newsrooms become more and more constrained by time and resources. Media outlets like BBC have already begun incorporating citizen journalism into their business structures with their ‘User-Generated Content Hub’. We have also seen promising partnerships, for example Reuter’s partnership with blogging network Global Voices, which has allowed bloggers to contribute first hand perspectives from countries like Africa (Revis, 2009). These blogs have given Africans a chance to speak for themselves through a blog that is linked directly with a mainstream media network.
Citizen journalists now have the resources to act as a balancing force to mainstream media, sociologist Michael Schudson makes an interesting point in saying “Who writes the story matters. When minorities and women and people who have known poverty and misfortune first-hand are authors of news, as well as readers, the social world represented in the news expands and changes.” (Mills, 2004)
Mills, K 2004 Changing The Civil Rights Case That Transformed Television Channels, The University Press of Mississippi, MS US, pp. 179.
Revis, L 2011 ‘How Citizen Journalism Is Reshaping Media and Democracy’ Mashable, viewed 17 September 2013
Williams, E 2009 ‘The voices of Twitter users or Listening to Twitter users’ TED Talks, viewed 17 September 2013