Citizen Journalism + Broadcast News = The Future of News?

May 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Background

Broadcast television is where most consumers get their news, trumping newspapers, magazines, the radio, and even the Internet. As a result, broadcast news organizations (such as CNN, ABC News, Fox News, etc.) hold a great deal of power; people see these organizations as credible, objective authorities of information. A negative result of this authority is that consumers have no way to participate in the news. This is a problem because nowadays everyone wants to feel as if they have some say in every medium.

In terms of news, the Internet can be thought of as the opposite of a news organization because it provides choice of content, diversity of content and interactivity. These are all great features, but the vastness and openness of the Internet lead many to discredit it as a news medium because it does not have the checks and balances that a news organization possesses.

So what would happen if the good qualities of both mediums were combined?

Challenges Facing Broadcast News

Though television is still considered the most exciting, influential, persuasive and authoritative medium, broadcast news is losing viewers.* To get news, consumers have more options than just the television; they have magazines, newspapers, the radio, and the Internet. So why are consumers choosing to look toward other mediums for their information?

Broadcast news has a limited schedule and only airs three or four times a day. Viewers have to tune in at a certain a time or miss out on some of the information. The Internet is available everyday, all day. Consumers can choose when they want to get their information instead of being forced to adhere to a media company’s schedule.

Another challenge broadcast news organizations are facing is the quality of their content. Because of media consolidation and corporate affiliations, news stations tend to cover the same stories, so there is not as much variety as one might find on the Internet. Also, broadcast news tends to favor more sensational stories, as they require less extensive investigating, are less expensive to produce, and attract passing viewers. Corporate cost cutting plays into this as well, because it costs companies more money to give the public objective, high-quality news.

Finally, broadcast news leaves consumers without a choice. If a viewer wants to see a certain story that has been advertised, and it does not come on until the end of the broadcast, he/she will either have to sit through all the other stories to see it, or continually flip back to the channel while watching something else or doing some other activity.

Challenges Facing Citizen News Reporting

Citizen news reporters face more challenges than anything. Citizen news reporting is still in its early stages. It’s a whole new frontier waiting to be explored and waiting to be regulated.

One problem that contributors help bring on themselves is calling themselves “citizen journalists”. Many people have a problem with the fact that citizen journalists are called such when they have not been trained in a journalism school nor have any professional journalism experience. With the term “journalist”, people make certain assumptions—that whatever they are being told is the objective, flat-out truth. This raises the hackles of professional journalists, and discredits the profession when presented news is not accurate or objective.

Credibility is another huge challenge facing citizen reporting. Some citizen news reporters simply do not know or do not care to take the proper steps to investigate their sources. There is no incentive to get information from a source and then double and triple check that information. Also, since most citizen reporters have “day jobs”, many do not have the extra time to really delve into their sources. Another thing that can stand in the way of credibility is the very fact that citizen news reporters are just that—citizens, and not professional reporters. As a result, sometimes the people who could verify their facts won’t give them the time of day. It is important to keep in mind that not every citizen news reporter neglects source checking, but those that do not spoil everything for the rest of the bunch.

Another problem that gives citizen news reporters a bad name is that they are thought to be subjective on certain issues, or activists for causes. There are those out there who have the belief that citizen journalists must have some kind of agenda. It is true that there are people out there, using so-called citizen journalism blogs and websites to push their agenda, but that does not mean that everyone claiming to be a citizen journalist is doing so. Everyone knows that it is hard to remain objective about an issue, but professional journalists are trained to put their opinion to the side to give an objective view of a story. Citizen journalists may not even think about this being an issue they need to address, or they might have thought they were presenting all sides to the story when actually they were not.

Bringing Out the Best in One Another

Clearly broadcast news and citizen news need to team up to bring out the best in each other in a system called central collection. “Central collection is the media workflow and technological infrastructure that gives citizen journalists access to contribute to their local television stations.”* This idea of central collection has been expanded to national broadcast news organizations as well due to the easy transmission of information afforded by the Internet.

This process is a win-win for news organizations for the following reasons: they get a constantly replenished database of fresh stories, more people will tune in to their broadcasts because the stories interest them so the broadcasts gets higher ratings, and the broadcast news has a participatory element (which is incredibly important in this day and age). The process is a win-win for citizen news reporters for the following reasons: their content reaches a wide audience, they gain more credibility, and sometimes citizen reporters receive financial compensation for their contributions.

*Source:

Ontra, A. (n.d.). “Central Collection”: The People’s News Exchange. CentralCollection.net. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from http://centralcollection.net/citizenjournalist.pdf

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Entry filed under: COM 580- Contemporary Media Issues.

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