With the recent events in Myanmar/Burma, citizen journalists, the events they report, and the technology they use to do are getting plenty of airtime and column inches. After all, this is perhaps the first time in history where the revolution will be blogged, flickred, and youtubed. However, not to discount the incredibly impressive efforts of the Burmese bloggers, or to take away from citizen journalism’s day in the sun, this is not the only way to be a citizen journalist or local blogger.
Before the Myanmar protests and the resulting escalation of violence and the military crackdown, citizen journalists toiled away, reporting on local events, breaking news stories literally as they happen, and yes, even recording history as it unfolds. Think about – how much video footage and images of major events have been recorded by what is essentially a random person on the scene with a camera? Even before citizen journalism became a widely understood concept (and a popular catchphrase), intrepid souls have been taking it upon themselves to commit history to film.
From the many bloggers who make up the politically opinionated ranks of Daily Kos to the network of writerswho contribute to the Gothamist network of blogs (the Chicagoist, LAist, SFist, etc.), the group of bloggers, photographers, and videographers that make up the ranks of citizen journalists is immense. In addition, you have all the bloggers who occasionally post something about current events or the goings-on in their hometown. Really, if you look at it that way, we’re all citizen journalists.
Now, that’s all well and good, but searching for information in this genre, deciding what is useful to you, and organizing all this content is no easy task. Besides the simple fact that the web is vast and you probably don’t have tons of free time to sift through it, it’s tough to discern what is valuable and what’s irrelevant – and wouldn’t you rather have the content come to you in the form of newsfeeds or RSS?
Merely subscribing to your local paper’s feed and a few local bloggers might not give all the news and updates you’re searching for, and anyways, how do you know which bloggers are reliable? The citizen journalists who work with credible news sources (Reuters, for instance, has used them) are probably a safe bet, but they may not be as entertaining (hey, who says news has to be boring or serious – look at Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert) or as relevant to your interests as another choice. And really, just because someone is not affliated with a newspaper or news agency doesn’t mean they are not reliable or trustworthy.
Clearly, the world of citizen journalism needs some kind of organization – but however, something too stringent or reminiscent of professional journalism would be detrimental to the ear-to-the-ground, passionate nature of citizen bloggers. The person or group who can figure out the best way to accomplish this without destroying what makes citizen journalism so valuable will definitely reap some rich rewards (and as always, if you have ideas related to these topics, you should enter the Knight News Challenge).