Thursday, 29 December 2011

Grass Root and Citizen Media

What does the future hold for Journalism? I started a recent discussion on twitter about what the future holds for 2012 following on from the 2011 trend of protests. Grass roots and citizen media got mentioned and this got me thinking. The future of journalism or news broadcasting could be at risk.

Like the move from analogue to digital TV, or desk top computers to laptops and now tablets, from 2D to 3D movie animation and from the all popular advancement in mobile telephony, 'citizen media' and 'grass roots' could soon take over the traditional style of journalism and broadcasting.

Citizen media basically refers to reports and publications by ordinary citizens who are not professional journalist. Grassroots similarly refers to ordinary citizens coming together to promote a common agenda. Grassroots and citizen media are both gradually becoming a trend among young adults today.
With the outbreak of social media and the internet being even more accessible and computers readily available in your palm, even the poorest kid or oldest granny in the most remote part of the world has access to a mobile phone. The technology boom is becoming the new pandemic virus and is forming the backbone of both grassroots and citizen media.
My focus here however is on citizen media and its impact on the future of journalism. 

Newspapers, magazines, television or the radio are all media ports we turn to for updates of worldwide events whatever your interest.  So what would the world be like without the BBC or CNN or Al Jazeera or any of the other local news stations?  I believe the internet would simply take over their purpose of existence mainly through social media and particularly citizen media.

With the introduction of citizen media, every breaking news is reported within the blink of an eye by an ordinary citizen. You would have people in the twin towers at the time of the attack, and with the building collapsing around them you are sure to find the one person who would rather stop and tweet the occurrence before dashing for safety or another stop to film the mayhem on their mobile device. Celebrities tweet their own events, most journalist have their own private blogs, citizen videos get hits on YouTube faster than you have time to flick through TV channels.
A typical occurrence was the recent release of Egyptian blogger Alaa from prison. The news was online within seconds from citizen tweets. A similar trend transpired with the unfortunate bombing of Christians in Nigeria on that same day. Events at conferences are publicised faster than the agenda is published from participants’ blogging or tweeting during the event.

Competition in journalism lies with who gets the best coverage or premiers the headlines. As we now have ordinary citizens getting news round quicker than the newspapers go on sale or is broadcast on TV, one cannot help but ask what the future holds for journalism.

The downside I find however is the credibility of the information provided and the depth of the story. With this, journalism still triumphs.  Secondly, ordinary citizens still lack the recognition to gain access to Icons such as presidents and others prominent members of society and for this CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera reporters would always get the best seats. Unless of course President Obama’s girls’ decide to tweet events in the white house.  For now citizen media may be second best to traditional journalism but the time would surely come when the two would work parallel to each other with one raising the breaking headline news and the other fishing out the details. 

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