"Do readers want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
or Just a believable story to gossip around"?
Citizen journalism is one of the hottest buzzwords in the news business these days - with loads of wanna be celebrities jumping on the bandwagon, attempting to grasp their 5 seconds of fame by developing a concept or idea that the wider public will eat up.
Perez Hilton, an American blogger rose to fame for his increasing coverage of celebrities via blogs, YouTube and web commentaries. Perez Hilton's site is a glorified illustration of citizen journalism. This is a citizen started blogging out of interest, but turned it into a successful, profitable industry.
Citizen journalism is a forum and a way for people to document topics of interest and voice their own opinions, to inform, motivate and inspire other individuals (Cascio, 2006). Perez Hilton has used it as a forum to harness the interest of the general public by developing a credible online identity, networks and instilling hype and craze around topics related to the lives of celebrities.
Bruns writes, produsage based citizen journalism has broken the commercial hold of industrial capitalism in the journalistic industry (2008). But is this new style of journalism - celebrity journalism a new form of naviety - that can be damaging to the editors who want to stay in the parameters of journalism rather than relying on the larger production of constructed authenticity? The authenticity that comes with gossiping techniques that otherwise govern celebrity journalism?
A study by the social networking site MSN spaces found that nearly 60% of people online, use their blogs as a diary. A second study revealed that nearly 65% of people don't consider themselves journalists. Blogs are as individual as the people who keep them. Citizen journalists take matters into their own hands, as described by Jenkins, who further claims that bloggers actively deconstruct, poke fun with other producers to ensure opinions get circulated.
Can this be called real journalism????? Celebrity bloggers a.k.a citizen journalists are more concerned with providing consumers with emotional experiences rather than factual material.
Rosie O'Donnel - a celebrity, has used her status as a tv personality to form a relationship between media and alternative forms of journalism. This brings into question media power. Couldry explains it as symbolic power - or the power to construct and communicate ideas (Flew, 2007)
In my opinion what we are seeing is citizen journalism as a mobility multiplier, making available to consumers, a vast array of experiences that otherwise would have been unavailable to them. The breaking down of geographical and communication barriers (Livingstone, 2005).
Citizen journalism is in overdrive, with studies being conducted in the usefulness of consumer input. Newsassigment conducted a study into pro-consumer journalism, as a mission to spark innovation in open platform journalism by distributing concepts for the audience to report on. What they found was total chaos. The idea of audience freedom led to ambiguity in information content and the abundance of personal opinions rather than hard core facts useful for journalistic material.
Citizen journalists a.k.a celebrity journalists - such as Perez Hilton, need to start with an idea that interests them and then allow the community to evaluate and give meaning. An example of this was the extensive coverage of Britney Spears comeback performance at the MTV awards. Citizens pounced on the opportunity to gauge public thoughts on the performance skewing the event in all sorts of directions based on personal opinion. This then led to the highly publicized YouTube video of Chris Crocker. Citizens are playing an active role in the processing, collecting and evaluation of information. As information becomes more valuable and available it becomes a part of DIKW social context, of knowledge improving communication and social dissemination (Bellinger, Castro & Mills, 2004).
Rather than credible journalism, the introduction of the new interactive processes enabled by Web 2.0 has facilitated the"Hollywoodisation" of citizen journalism - where anyone who is anyone can contribute to the masses of opinion based topics online, but the media's growing reliance on - and the public's growing preference for entertainment and gossip pose implications for journalistic integrity.
Bellinger, G. Castro, D. Mills, A. 2004. DIKW article: Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. http://www.systems-thinking.org/dikw/dikw.htm/accessed (2 April, 2008)
Couldry, Nick. (2003) " Beyond the Hall of Mirrors? Some theoretical reflections on the global contestion of media power, in N, Couldry & J. Curran (eds), Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media in a networked world. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham MD, pp. 39-54
Jenkins, H. (2002) "Interactive Audiences?" in D. Harries (ed.) The New Media Book, London: BFI PublishingLivingstone, S. (2005) “Media Audiences, Interpreters and Users,” in M. Gillespie (ed) Media Audiences, Maidenhead: Open University Press, pp. 9-50