Last week I uploaded a video on my Instagram account of a woman who was manhandled by Metro Rail security officials for not having the correct ticket for first class. Undoubtedly, I was not the only one who immediately whipped out my smartphone so I could via social media inform the ‘rest’ of South Africa.
Like many others who probably succeeded much more than I did at making the video viral, unconsciously I was practicing citizen journalism as a journalism student. Or a student practicing citizen journalism…which ever one it is! This entire concept of citizen journalism has made me wonder why I still continue to even study a profession that ordinary citizens are practicing without the necessary qualification.
Initially when I introduced the whole journalism concept to my parents, they asked me why I was studying something I could do as a hobby. Shut the front door! Pause. Hobby?? Disseminating information to the public has been reduced, shrunk and squashed into a hobby?? One would initially think that as the information ‘gate keepers’, a profession like journalism deserves the undivided respect of the public minds it continually feeds.
Then again this very traditional journalism is dying out at the the hands of publications. Having to compete with new media has deduced traditional journalism into what Gareth Davis has described as a …”collection of click bait…the paper’s only role was to prop up the website with (increasingly) meager advertising revenue.” Undoubtedly traditional media is suffering which means journalism is in trouble, even John Oliver seems to think so.
However, journalist too must be blamed for dropping the ball and allowing themselves to get swallowed up by the pressures of producing quantity far more than quality to the public. According to Tim Hinchliffe journalists aren’t able to maintain professional objectivity which is why journalism apps are needed to combat corporate media bias.
Tim continues to say that “Citizen journalism apps make it even easier for users to share their unique, eyes-on-the-ground perspectives that show what is actually happening in real-time” . What U See is an example of an app that has been created for citizen journalists, it can be installed onto an android or smart phone and enables citizen journalists to report on stories within their areas.
Are citizen journalists really at fault then for not only actively informing themselves but others in the process? Believe it or not, citizens are practicing a concept I would like to describe as ‘being a heavy chef’. I was introduced to this concept at a media conference by Fred Roed,the idea behind being a heavy chef is utilizing new media to your advantage. Moral of the story -no one trusts a skinny chef, citizens are not only learning to cook their own food but eat it too. Just like media consumption should be a two way stream, journalist cannot cater to a dead audience.
This 21st social media dominated century, has created a big fat elephant of awkwardness and disrespect in a room filled with real journalists and what some would describe as ‘wanna be journalists’. But perhaps it isn’t all that bad, perhaps journalists need passionate activist and dedicated citizen journalists in order to drown out the noise traditional media has instilled and learn how to share the toys they do not play with. Anyway onto other news…who cooks the food you eat?