Citizen journalism consists of people formerly known as ‘’the audience’’ where individuals do what professional reporters do; collect, report, analyze and spread information. In these days, new media such as podcasts, blogs and social networking websites have been making citizen journalism a popular trend. Especially online websites such as Facebook and Twitter create an online field full of freedom of expression. Even thought there are several disadvantages of contributing knowledge by unprofessional people, resulting in subjectivity and / or difficulty of confirming validity, citizen journalism has an important impact over journalism.
Firstly, regular journalists often cannot access a crisis, information or news on time. It is a fact that journalists not always can be present when incidents or disasters strike. However, with street journalism people are enabled to learn the latest events instantly. For example at 9/11 terrorist attacks when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, news journalists and reporters were not the ones that captured the scene, but rather New York City residents and tourists who just happened to have their cameras with them. The videos, taken by citizens revealed the extent of the tragedy. These clips also shed light to the full scale of the damage that traditional journalists cannot cover because of the ethics of journalism. A good example was the videos shot of Kaddafi being torn to pieces. No ethical journalist would have stomached to air those scenes.
Secondly, citizen journalism allows people to report stories that the media won’t cover or simply think the information would be unimportant. Consequently, readers can be able to learn more information about a story, utter their opinions and share it with other readers who are interested in similar stories. Street journalism allows society to be aware of the different viewpoints around the world and people can have diversity of outlook for the information that is given. For example in 2010, Tunisians unprofessionally captured protests and government oppression and shared them with thousands via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Within weeks, similar protests started to occur in Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries, giving birth to the Arab Spring. The social media gives us access to thousands of stories from all over the world that we can read at our own discretion, not only stories that are carefully selected by editors and written in a specific way.
Another advantage is, citizen journalism not only allows news to be independent and boundless, but it also helps traditional journalists to investigate witnesses using tools of citizen journalism. For instance, during the London Bombing, eyewitnesses captured images on their cell phones and cameras and sent them in to the media and also published them in their personal blogs. President of the Community Media Workshop in Chicago Thom Clark also states; “Citizen journalists can also show editors or remaining beat reporters where there is keen community interest about certain issues and institutions that could heighten reader interest.” For example, on December 26, 2004 an earthquake and tsunami hit the west coast of Indonesia and some of the witnesses captured the event with their phones and cameras and sent these clips to media corporations like BBC and CNN.
To sum up, today as technology changes assumptions of journalism is also being re-examined. Internet based journalism allows people to have all products within a single platform. Although there are many opponents of this huge wave of social networking and citizen journalism, this new media definitely brings fast, drastic, brave, clear and noticeable way of reporting and following news. Journalism is changing hands and from now on ordinary people have also power to report stories as they see them and spread the information all over the world with just one click.