Journalism, the gathering and reporting of the news, is one of the traditional professions. It owes its beginnings to the 1456 invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, although it took until the 17th Century for the first regularly published newspapers to appear in Europe. That paper was the Oxford Gazette:

A copy of the Oxford Gazette, found at The Mitchell Archives


Modern Print Journalism In Upheaval

A true history of journalism is far beyond the scope of this document, but it is worth noting that here in 2010, the profession is in a state of upheaval. The rise of the modern Web, with its corresponding ability to provide any nugget of information to any party at any moment, has created a new and often hostile playing field for traditional players such as print newspapers. Consumers now expect to read the news for free on the Web, so the traditional economic model has been shattered. Surviving papers, even those as eminent as the New York Times, are struggling to turn a profit. They are bleeding print circulation, and much of their online content is not generating revenue, since it is distributed free by news amalgamators like Google News. In addition, internet-based outfits like the Huffington Post and ProPublica are providing stiff new competition.


Citizen Journalism, Catalyzed By Social Media

Social media provides another source of competition. The read/write web has clearly illustrated that individual users want to create content as well as consume it, and this holds true for news reporting as well. Freelance journalist Mark Glazer puts it best: The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could factcheck a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube. Why is this a critical quote? Very simply, anyone can do it. This means that the news is no longer a commodity controlled solely by professional reporters and journalists. In this sense, social media serves as an equalizing force. It should also be noted that while citizen or participatory journalism holds a very specific definition it is a scenario in which individual non-professionals report the news when one views things more broadly, many of the tools provided by social media in 2010 are used to perform citizen journalism of one kind or another whether or not that was the original intent. A user who uploads photographs to Flickr of a parade, demonstration, or other newsworthy event is performing journalism. Therefore, it is possible to see archives like YouTube or Flickr as journalistic in nature (even though they were not conceived with that purpose).


Electronic Research Project

My project will curate and make commentary on the phenomenon of citizen, or participatory journalism in print, video and image. It will explore citizen journalism particularly in terms of its manifestation on the social web. I will create an electronic research project that explores the topic, using either Drupal or Wordpress as a host. The project will reference my image and video galleries on Flickr and YouTube, located here and here. This is a topic that belongs squarely within the Electronic Participatory Culture class research area. Although events like the use of Twitter during the Iranian Elections are chiefly identifiable as smart mob phenomena, it is my belief that they are also excellent examples of citizen journalism.