The Public Journalist – Digital Essay 2

Hardly ever out of the public’s hand, the cell phone is noticeably shifting the ways human interact with their environment and each other. To say it’s evident that our society can predict how mobile technologies change social interaction is foolish. Through everyday activities, we are regularly reminded that the cell phone is more intrusive and furthers our contact with others. There is a relatively obvious issue of human adaptation to technology in regards to identity and social norms, but the cell phone is also changing how information is accessed, shared, and addressed. What society realizes is a big picture, but daily it’s clearer how involved the cell phone is in changing our daily communications. To an extent, mobile technology effects the public’s general opinion or interest. Essentially, this allows the user to be a journalist by definition. Through the power of journalism and networking, consumers take on an unforeseen responsibility and effect the potential masses. Depending on how the user exercises this power will determine the success in public, citizen journaling.

Collette Snowden, author of As It Happens, analyzes the average user in being a journalist and what those effects are on society. Early in Snowden’s argument, she acknowledges mobile tech as being,

“so wide spread that it has disrupted the conventions governing public distribution of news and information” (Snowden, 121).

The history of journaling as a practice can be traced back to the print and manual hand-writing. First seen as a profession, journalism is now undermined and unfortunately faces challenges of credibility and ability in being a journalist.

Snowden notes that “citizen journalism,” is an act unable to be filtered or proven. A professional journalist should have facts organized and research to back up their statements or reports. Ultimately, the reader is responsible in determining whether a source be true or not, but with the ease of sharing information, the line between true and false is often blurred. China’s response to citizen’s journaling and sharing protests in 2009 was to limit communications within the country, and soon realized the force behind networking. Professional media’s response to social journalism is utilizing the people’s postings as eye-witness reports or activity. Regardless of the validity of a consumer’s postings, truthfulness does not need to be apparent.

via Youtube

An amateur attempt at journalism took the Internet by storm in early 2013, as a user claims to have cell-phone footage of a child being whisked away by an eagle. Although the circumstances are valid and the video is convincing, it was later announced that the video was edited and a hoax, meant to shake the web community.

Snowden’s concluding sentences aim at journalism’s role in society: to provide all, unbiased information to the user by actively searching for the truth. Juxtaposing professional and citizen journalism, there is an allowance for miscommunication through the “must share-immediately,” mindset of citizen journaling.

Although, it is important to note that this ability to share information quickly proves to have a positive impact as well. In 2010, an anonymous filmmaker won the George Polk Award, a top journalism award, for filming the results of violent protests in Iraq via cell phone. The organizer for the George Polk Award, John Darton, praises the bystander by,

“celebrat[ing] the fact that, in today’s world, a brave bystander with a cell phone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news” (Business Insider, 2010).

The extremely graphic video posted to Youtube (*warning: viewer discretion is advised*) is the first anonymous journalist report to win the award since it’s impetus circa 1950.

When Everyone is a Journalist by Dan Gillmor acknowledges Tennessee business man Rex Hammock and his act of citizen journalism. Through his personal blog website, Hammock reveals President Bush’s opinions on the economy even though the meeting was closed to press. Hammock’s take on the President’s views buzzed through the cyber world, impacting America’s view of our president.

Gillmor defines the goal of the journalist similarly to Snowden. He pushes on,

“help[ing] the new journalists understand and value ethics, the importance of serving the public trust, and professionalism” (Gillmor).”

In attempting to replenish the faith of professional journalism, some sites still aim at undermining the truth. Most notably, The Onion and Daily Currant are websites structured in a way that suggest fact and research, but satirize the public’s gullibility through freedom of press. Both websites offer a share option to the public. Most of the time, these articles and reports are shared by the thousands with the intention of truth and shock by the world’s actions. Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 10.57.27 PM

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 10.58.24 PM

The Onion’s article stating that 4 Senators were attacked by Tiger’s was shared via Facebook about 7K times. Hopefully, the shares were acted out of entertainment purposes and not truth.

Mobile sharing of news and information through a citizen journalism perspective can shape the public’s view and relationship to specific material. The professional media outlets need to stand out by offering truth in their reports, an idea that Snowden and Gillmor both heavily endorse. Ultimately, it’s up to the reader in deciding whether or not a source can be deemed “true.” By checking multiple media outlets, one can see through the blurred lines of truth in text because even our greatest news outlets (CNN, NBC, NY Times) have made mistakes in reporting false information. The ability to trust your friends and family’s information gains credibility when the wrong information is put out by even the biggest companies. Professionals and public consumers are now working together in providing up-to-date news for mass society.

Works Cited

Reagan, Gillian. “Anonymous Filmmakers Of Neda Video Win Top Journalism Award.”Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

“When Everyone’s a Journalist  .” American Journalism Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

Snowden, Collette. “As It Happens.” Mobile Communications Tecnology, Journalists and Breaking News.  121-133.


2 thoughts on “The Public Journalist – Digital Essay 2”

  1. Wow! First off I think you really do the authors of this week’s reading justice. I like the conversation of a credible journalism and truth in our media, nobody knows what sources to rely upon because they’re coming from all directions. I must admit, it feels kind of cool to live in a society where we know what’s happening right up to the moment. However, with this great technological advantage comes its drawbacks and I guess proliferation is the consequence here. But in relation to how you compared the hoax video to the death of that woman speaks vehemently to the effect of how people are so quick to endorse miscommunication. As eerie as it was to watch her pass, her tragedy could be a call to arms or some form of social justice waiting to be illuminated to the masses. Good stuff!

  2. Identifying early on in the essay that it isn’t safe to predict how mobile technology will impact social interaction is a prominent point. I appreciated the information you’ve provided as well as its clarity and relevancy.

    I think so much attention is given to the rapid growth of technologies that articles like the ones we read in class, or even this essay in particular, focusing more on the implications of mobile technology is out of necessity.

    With that being said I feel as though somewhere in the media studies or theories, that we’ve dropped the ball in regulation and sort of gave way to technology. Such is evident in the popular propaganda devised explicitly to exploit audiences abilities (non-abilities) to identify proper news, as satirical sites/memes/news/etc continue to rise.

    To me this is where regulation meets technology. Satirical sites should not be allowed to host share buttons for the very reason listen above. I see the attempt of the citizen journalism award you’ve made here, to distinguish the line of good and bad citizen journalism and there should be more agencies that support the distinction.

    It’s already hard enough to trust major networks as it is.

    (For me the problem spiked when I glanced at a muted television set on CCN and saw that I could follow them on twitter, some odd years ago. )

    My detest for such blurred lines lie in many areas of discussion in terms of the relationship between social interaction and mobile technologies.

    You’ve done very well at exploring the platforms here. Got me thinking. Thank you.

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