Aligning Citizen and Traditional Journalism

The advent of web 2.0 has result in the emergence of a cacophony of voices expressing themselves all over the web, giving rise to the the concept of "citizen journalism".

In lay terms, citizen journalism refers to a form of recording events and issues by people who have neither conventional journalistic training or educational qualifications.

Utilizing new web technologies, citizen journalists are able to reach to audiences and readers, just like traditional journalists. Unlike proofessional journalists, citizen journalists are driven by the desire to tell their stories without necessarily pandering or adhering to institutional or organizational guidelines.

Moreover, the stories that citizen journalists tell do not have to follow traditional story-telling models that can be seen as restrictive on the one hand but in a way help to promote fairness and accuracy, on the other. While the formlessless of citizen journalism allows for people to write as they consider fit to tell the story, it has also created a form of information chaos mainly on the web.

Citizen journalists do not have to adhere to standards or ethics, and are free to purvey information which has not undergone a filtering process to determine accuracy of content. With citizen journalism, it is largely the preserve of the individual to define standards of telling the truth of the matter as closely as possible.

On the contrary, professional journalism is based on models that have been developed for a long period of time, and in many ways adheres to standards and ethics that ideally promote both fairness and accuracy.

However, as commercial interests have become a dominant force in traditional media, the traditional role of professional journalists to tell the full story has become increasinly eroded.

So, seen from another perspective, citizen journalism allows citizens to put the power back the hands of citizens because the models allows individuals to tell the story according to their own perspectives. Ideally, both citizen and professional journalism have the same concern at their core: to get as much close to the truth as is possible through verbal and visual mediums.

Both models have inherent faultlines, and through a dialectical learning and collaborative process, each model has something to teach the other. Put in other words, citizen journalism in its purest form is free from external interests, and is subject only to an individual’s desire to tell a perspective as they see it.

The fact that citizen journalism is all in an individual’s hands promotes freedom of expression but opens the model to abuse. Citizen journalists can easily fabricate and get away with it unlike professional journalists who have to adhere to a professional code of conduct and may face reparcations if they fabricate. Professional journalists may be forced to tell half-truths in order to protect commercial interests or purvey hegemonic stances. In both cases, the quest for truth is what suffers, and humanity finds itself at a loss.

Thus, citizen journalism needs to borrow some of the standards and models that define traditional journalism without sacrificing the freedom of expression offered by new information technology platforms. Likewise, professional journalism can incorporate the freedom to tell the story inherent in citizen journalism without losing traditional principles.

Therefore, citizen journalists can gain equality with professional journalist if they infuse principles and ethics of traditional journalism into their work. Citizen journalists need to realize that they have a responsibility to be accurate and fair in the stories that they tell. Truth must not be sacrificed on the altar of freedom of expresion offered by pervasive Web 2.0 platforms.

Through a conscious awareness of objectivity, accuracy, corroboration, and editorial oversight – concepts that lie at the heart of professional journalism – citizen journalists can exponentially increase the integrity of their work, and subsequently achieve the esteemed value of trust with readers and audiences.

When citizen and traditional journalism meet in agreement at a principles level, truth prospers, and humanity will be better served.