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Kayla Adams-Kalman

IM 260, Fall 2014
Research Paper: How Has Citizen Journalism Impacted Mainstream News?
In this paper, I am going to be answering the question “How has citizen journalism
impacted mainstream news media?” I think that citizen journalism has had both positive and
negative effects on mainstream news, but I think the impact varies depending on where you
prefer to get your news or in what form you prefer to get it in. I am choosing to research this
topic because it is discussed a lot in my Mass Communication courses and it is something that I
think has changed the way we acquire information. It is a trend that has only increased in
popularity since the rise of the internet and social networking sites like Twitter.
In this paper, I am going to first review and analyze the articles I found on the topic, I am
then going to talk about the research that I conducted on my own and the results I got, and finally
I will close with a discussion and my conclusion.
When it comes to how citizen journalism has impacted mainstream news in recent years,
there are a couple of positive trends that were mentioned consistently in the articles that I read.
The biggest positive influence citizen journalism has had is the fact that it offers the opportunity
for broadcasting unique perspectives. Instead of getting the repetitiveness of information from
networks like NBC and ABC, we are able to hear the perspectives of individuals who were
personally impacted and how it impacted them, which inevitably is going to be different, and
debatably more accurate than journalists who showed up after the fact. “One particular example
of this would be the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Bloggers were actually able to document the
scene better than actual news outlets with cell phones. The viewers were first account witness‟s

to it and able to give insight to others from their point of view” (Kyger, 2012). Another popular
trend is that it allows those disregarded, the ordinary person, to voice his or her opinion and
share it with a large media audience. This is made possible through the use of social networking
sites like Twitter, where anyone can “tweet” about something almost instantaneously. “It…
allows „marginalized people to reclaim their voices, to tell their otherwise silenced stories
firsthand‟ which would have rarely occurred in the past 10 years. We have seen how this can be
true. In 2010 and 2011 hundreds of videos and photographs surfaced just as the conflicts in the
Middle East and North Africa were gaining momentum… The Hudson River plane crash is
another prime example of how citizen journalists with mobile devices can make headline news
with their information. The online world was booming with countless tweets and pictures from
eyewitnesses” (Henriquez, 2012).
Though there are positives, there are also negative ways that citizen journalism has
impacted mainstream news. One of the bigger issues with citizen journalism is that it lacks
credibility. Because anyone can say anything, it raises inquiry on just how accurate the
information we are receiving is. People are inclined to trust information that they find online and
is considered “news,” which can validate content that could be inaccurate or false. “In this way,
citizen journalism projects have the potential to implicitly validate content that might be
inaccurate, offensive, or otherwise lack credibility. A tool intended to boost the trustworthiness
of reporting might therefore result in a loss of confidence in the news” (Educause Learning
Initiative, 2007). When this happens, and the audience finds out, not only can citizen journalism
lose its credibility, but so can mainstream news sources. “…Many citizen journalists have a
weaker sense of what constitutes a reliable story, free of conjecture” (Educause Learning
Initiative, 2007). Both mainstream journalism and citizen journalism are associated in context, so

it could be somewhat inevitable for people to place their opinions on both ends instead of just the
one which is inaccurate, ruining the reputation of both.
Aside from the research that I conducted reading numerous articles, I also created an
online survey on the topic and found quite a few similarities in my findings and the findings that
were summarized in the articles that I read.
I used Survey Monkey to create my survey. I interviewed 17 college students all between
the ages of 18-23 (give or take). The male to female ratio was about 50/50. The survey consisted
of ten questions all intended to answer the question “How has citizen journalism impacted
mainstream news?” All questions were in multiple choice format with a couple of the answers
allowing for explanations. All surveys were taken with complete anonymity so that everyone
who took the survey felt comfortable to answer all of the questions as truthfully as possible. All
data that was collected was analyzed using graphs and charts, splitting up all results into
percentages.
Like I mentioned, the survey I conducted consisted of ten multiple choice questions for
contributors to answer. Some of my questions were as basic as “Where do you get most of your
news?” But, of the ten questions that I asked, three of them were most related to, and correlated
most similarly, with what I found in the articles I read before conducting my own research.
Those questions were “Which has the most credibility?” “Which would you rather use to find out
about an event?” and a “Would you prefer to…” question.

Here are my findings:

For the first question “Which would you rather use to find out about an event?” 47
percent of those surveyed said that they would prefer to find out online through social media
instead of watching the news. The whole concept of citizen journalism is based around
immediate documentation through the use of social media sites like Twitter, so the students who
prefer to use social media as a news source are inevitably being exposed to citizen journalism.
These results are in favor of citizen journalism.
In the results of question two “Would you prefer to hear about an event right away
(risking inaccuracy) or wait until all facts are gathered and accurate?” I found a contradiction.
Though those surveyed said they would prefer to find out about news through social media,
majority (almost 77 percent) said that they would rather wait for accurate information than risks
inaccuracy through immediate documentation of an event. These findings are against citizen
journalism.
The third question, “What has the most credibility?” also had some inconsistencies. 77
percent of those who took the survey said that they would rather wait for accurate reporting
(usually given through mainstream news), but in this third question, over 81 percent agreed that
an eye witness (or a citizen journalist) is going to have more credibility. Once again, results are
in favor of citizen journalism.
What I found in these results is that the students who took the survey were torn between
the two sources (mainstream and citizen journalism). The answers were consistent with both the
positive and negative impacts citizen journalism poses on mainstream news.
It is easy to look at an issue in black and white, but sometimes the significance lies within
the grey. Some see mainstream news being positively impacted by citizen journalism while

others may think it is effecting it negatively. Or sometimes, like my survey found, they are torn
between the two. They want what both can offer, but they also don‟t want to face the
repercussions that both sources pose. There is also the possibility that citizen journalism doesn‟t
help nor hurt mainstream news. Some research conducted shows that its participants didn‟t
notice the difference between an article written by a trained professional and an article citizenproduced. The bottom line is that there are risks that audiences are going to have to be willing to
take in order to get the information that they demand. Both mainstream news and citizen
journalism have pros and cons; it is up to the receivers of information who they want to lie their
trust in.

References:
Henriquez, G. (2012, October 19). The Rise and Impact of Citizen Journalism. Retrieved
October 6, 2014, from http://hightechgalore.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-rise-and-impactof-citizen.html
Kyger, M. (2012, October 17). Information 3.0: Exploring the New Media World. Retrieved
October 6, 2014, from http://exploringthenewmediaworld.blogspot.com/2012/10/citizenjournalism-benefits-or.html
7 Things You Should Know About Citizen Journalism. (2007, November 1). Retrieved October
6, 2014, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7031.pdf