Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

Summary: Could Generation Y end up trusting citizen journalism more than official press releases as its popularity increases?

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Tim Pool, a 25-year-old protester turned independent broadcaster, has been using his Samsung Galaxy S II to stream the full events of Occupy Wall Street. There's no fancy camera equipment, no deadlines and no sponsorship.

After police in full riot gear evicted thousands of protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York, with members of the media unable to access the area, Pool and other protesters took matters in to their own hands.

Pool began streaming his live coverage from Ustream, a live service with millions of subscribers. After the eviction took place, Pool said: "We’ve seen one of the scariest, heart-racing nights, [...] it’s really bringing everyone together."

The 21-hour stream catapulted Pool to online fame as it went viral on Twitter. The broadcasting effort, it seems, created a strong bond in the protesting community.

Unfiltered and unedited, the stream was featured on a number of broadcasting channels, and provided what camera crews could not.

It started with just one man and his smartphone. But how far could 'citizen journalism' go in altering the general public's view on events?

Could Generation Y end up trusting user-generated content more than official press releases as it continues to balloon and expand?

(Source: Flickr)

Sometimes footage released online is 'accidental journalism', and can be uploaded with detrimental effects to official press releases.

A chance bystander, or a witness viewing a riot, a personal account can add another facet to a news broadcast that may have not been available 20 years ago. Considering this, the increase in user-generated content needs to be taken thoughtfully in to account by any media outlet that indulges in spin.

A single person who stands at the sidelines with their camera has the potential to derail and embarrass any media corporation.

Online broadcasts, at least currently in the West, allow for immediate global viewing. This can cause instant accountability for those involved in the situation, whether public figures, the police, or individuals themselves.

You want to know what's happening at UC Davis? Go on YouTube. How about OWS updates? Head over to Twitter.

Social media networks are expanding at an incredible rate. Studies suggest that people find them unreliable, but when you click on the link to a witness video of the latest riot, citizen journalism can help an audience form their own opinion.

Subjective witness reports, video documenting incidents -- it can all contribute to a greater understanding of the subject itself.

Objective media can be viewed, both image and video, and allows for subjective experience and opinions to be formed. It can take traditional journalism one-step further by allowing the audience to experience something for themselves rather than simply read it in traditional print.

'People-powered' news services like Blottr and an expanding range of citizen journalism sites are also on the rise. Whether it is a loose collaboration of writers and bloggers, or streaming platforms like Ustream and YouTube, now the general public are able to report on, collaborate and discover 'breaking news' as it happens.

Not all reporting is without some form of bias like that of the reporter themselves, but video media often allows an audience to view raw footage that may not be available through traditional, editing outlets.

The web has granted people the power to transmit information that was once reserved only for large corporations, who often have an agenda. Whether 'semi-independent' -- for example, posting commentary alongside news sites -- or 'independent' -- outside of traditional media outlets, citizen journalism has the opportunity to report on not only localised events.

But global concerns and give more subjective accounts of proceedings.

Paul Bradshaw has written that citizen journalism takes us “from a world where members of the public needed the news industry for information, to one where they can access and produce it themselves."

I would take this a step further. It is not only that citizens are able to produce news themselves, but also journalists are now also able to draw on them for stories to an extent not seen before.

Some commentary can be editorially valuable. or example, the BBC’s question on its website asking people to tell them where they bought their fuel if they had had a problem engine was the most accurate data gained about the areas problem petrol was being sold. It can also enrich experiences, such as questions, from the general public being tweeted and answered in live stream conferences.

There are, of course, disadvantages to this.

By having intense interaction between journalists and audiences through these platforms, it's not only beneficial discussion that can be generated. Internet 'trolls', hate campaigns against journalists, and even death threats all exist.

The Occupy Wall Street citizen broadcasting movement in itself is one example of how the Internet is allowing eyewitness reports, photos and videos to be logged everyday without censure or control. Though, there have been suggestions that police were confiscating laptops and destroying recording equipment in an effort to control the 'uprising' of unrestricted broadcasting.

Syria attempted banned the use of iPhones to try and control information leaving the country, amid fear it could be used by Western media outlets.

Citizen journalism causes power shifts.

The questions are: how valuable will we view such commentary and media streams in the future, and what additional parts the Generation Y will play in the forming of future journalism?

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  • RE: Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

    The "citizen journalist" also has to be taken with a grain of salt as well. When they're part of the protest, what they choose to take video of and what they leave out can paint a picture that they want to portray and isn't necessarily as "raw" as it might be portrayed in the media, or by the person uploading it. Many times now "abusive behaviour" by cops/bus drivers/etc has been caused by agitation and verbal attacks that (not surprisingly) didn't make it to the video that ends up getting posted. Unfortunately, the full story ends up on a page 20 retraction, not on the front page of the website where the video landed. Mission accomplished by the "citizen journalist" using the traditional media as their route to accomplishing their agenda.
    Ididar
    • RE: Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

      @Ididar inclined to agree. There's always going to be bias in media publishing on any platform (even if it's just the bias of the publisher in question) but I think an interesting question may be whether the concept of expanding citizen journalism will cause traditional platforms to 'rethink' any ideas of spin or bias themselves - in case they end up in the firing line (think UC Davis).
      charlieosborne
  • RE: Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

    I recall Mark Twain as saying that a lie can travel around the world in the time the truth puts on its pants.

    When hit-counts (views) or re-tweets (repeats) transform into what counts as validation and people who wish to affect public opinion and perception can buy themselves web pages that are on message, the problem of quality of information becomes manifest. My answer? Make sure everyone has access. Liars and scoundrels are nothing new, and they tend to cozy up to the people in power. It's the voice of the disenfranchised we need to be able to hear. You can't fool all the people all the time.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Occupy Journalism: The cultural shift in citizen broadcasting

    We are at a time where mainstream news sources have become timid, incurious and non-investigative to an utterly irresponsible degree, but that the amount of raw news data gathering via video uploads and and Twitter posts has exploded. The chronic issue with "citizen journalists" is that too much of the "journalizing" comes with heavy ideological baggage and it pushed along with an agenda. If for a given situation or incident, there is an abundance of raw data, like video, from a multitude of separate sources, the news story can write itself. But with smaller bits of info combined with unknown or poorly described context....
    JustCallMeBC