DIY Journalism

So you’re merrily filming on your smartphone when there’s an unexpected incident right in front of you. A fire, a crime, a celebrity sighting (hopefully dishevelled, drunk or both). You capture it and then realise you have something newsworthy on your device. Something people want to see. BINGO. You’ve entered the realm of citizen journalism.

‘Pardon?’ I hear you say. ‘Citizen what?’. Citizen journalism. It’s been around for a while.

“Journalism experts agree that citizen journalism is the collecting and reporting of information via social media platforms and traditional news outlets, either by non-traditional news sources or the public. For example, police officers or city clerks could operate as citizen journalists if they were to release information about an incident. Citizen journalism has become increasingly popular with the rise of smartphones. However, an early example of citizen journalism can be found as far back as 1963.” (Summer Stuart)

People have traditionally asked ‘Where were you when JFK was shot?’. (For later generations, the equivalent question is with regards to the demise of Princess Di). Immediately we call to mind grainy footage of President Kennedy slumped in his car and Jackie clambering to assist him in her immortalised pink Chanel suit. That iconic footage was accidentally captured by Adam Zapruder as he watched the cavalcade go by on that fateful day in Dallas, Texas. It was November, 1963. He was unwittingly to become one of the first examples of citizen journalism. For the young or foggy of memory here is a reminder…

The world changed that day. A president died, a new form of reporting was born.

Since poor JFK met his end, more and more tragedies have been captured by regular people. The first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Bali bombings. Recent acts of terrorism close to home in Melbourne. Of course it’s not all gloom and doom. There’s always plenty of footage of some Kardashian without underpants or a politician shooting their mouth off after one too many beverages on a publicly funded junket.

I’m guessing the question is, where does one draw the line? What can we really film with our ethics intact? Presumably with the aim to either peddle our story to the mainstream media or ‘release’ it ourselves via the juggernaut that is social media. I’m thinking it’s a personal call.

Princess Diana met her end speeding away from a bunch of paparazzi in 1997 and the world was outraged. Smartfones were yet to come into being. Fast forward twenty two years and the world has changed yet again. In our own way we are ALL now collective paparazzi, each carrying the means to record footage that may change history. (Or at least earn unexpected cash when a drunken celebrity falls out of a cab in front of us). Without question it has widened the pool of material for mainstream news outlets. Conversely, it has created a vast, unreliable pool of ‘news’ stories that turn out to be bogus. How many times have we heard someone died, checked our sources and in fact they’re alive and well and making a public statement to that effect. Anything can be edited or photoshopped. That’s the power of the internet.

I’d use the term ‘fake news’ but that’s a WHOLE other blog article.

In 2019 we can all be a journalist if the opportunity arises and we choose to be. We carry a smartphone, we have the internet and we have a massive amount of platforms on which to be heard. Back in 1963, poor Adam Zapruder was so horrified by what he filmed he gave it to the television stations and didn’t even keep a copy of his history making footage. Adam would have had a very different experience these days. My advice would be stick with what the proper journos dish up and don’t believe everything you see.

I’ll still whip out my iPhone if I see a Kardashian though. I’m not THAT ethical.

What is Citizen Journalism – Definition and Examples (Summer Stuart)

JFK Assassination Live Dallas TV – YouTube

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