When I wrote my thesis in graduate school, a lot of the articles I read talked about how the age of “citizen journalism” had come with the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Still others said it was the London subway bombings in 2005 that brought the age of citizen journalism.
I finished my thesis (on citizen journalism website best practices) in September 2006. The information and analysis in my thesis is probably far outdated now, but people are still asking about citizen journalism and if it is coming of age six years later.
This morning one of my friends posted a reblog on Tumblr citing a The Week’s coverage of the theater shootings in Colorado. It questioned if the timeline Reddit users created was “the future of journalism.”
The article seems pretty naive in thinking now we’re hitting the wave of the future. Reddit is only the newest tool and social community where people can create citizen journalism. How long as Twitter existed? People have been posting their first-hand accounts on Twitter for years. Remember when the plane emergency landed in the Hudson River? It was a Twitter sensation. I worked at WestportNow.com for two years, and it existed a few years before I became editor. In those years the site relied quite a bit on so-called citizen journalists. CNN’s iReport, for better or worse, has been around for quite some time.
Journalists are already embracing social media and reviewing what people are posting in their first-hand accounts of news. Everyone has been for years. Reddit is just one more source. And to the point that the information is flawed, these social networks are just tools and sources. Journalists still need to confirm the information presented.
But let’s stop saying “citizen journalism” is coming of age. It’s been an important part of journalism for many years now.