Alright, so we’ve talked about what citizen journalism is so when you think of citizen journalists, who do you think of?
Maybe this guy…?
What about this chick…?
Tara Moss is an author and model who contributed to coverage of the Manus Island detention centre riots (February 16 to 18 2014) that ultimately lead to the death of 23 year old Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Berati. She posted this information to Facebook and, along with other key witness accounts, helped the story to unravel. Traditional media still played a massive role in uncovering the truth and perhaps Moss’s contribution would have been lost if not for her celebrity status. Does Moss count as an ‘average citizen’? Does it matter?
I can’t think of a clever segue so I’m just going to do this…HONG KONG!
Damn these protesters are good! And to show off, journalism students from The University of Hong Kong created a bilingual Facebook page called VerifiedHK. The page has over 112,000 ‘likes’ and “provides fact-checked protest information including reliable news reports, photos and logistics updates”. Co-founder Gloria Cheung said that dispelling or confirming rumours is significant as “any information that is posted could create panic on the Internet, and on the ground.”
This is a pretty rad example of how citizen journalism can work in tandem with traditional ‘FIGHT THE MAN!’ activities. Planned negotiations between the government and protesters will begin this week.
Whilst the examples of Moss and the protesters hold value, does citizen journalism really challenge the powers that be or does it actually contribute to their hegemony?
Media outlets know that we can create content. Instead of trying to fight it they’ve simply found a way to use it. Now they actually ask us to send them shit for free! Here are a few examples:
- GuardianWitness – “GuardianWitness is the home for content you’ve created. Contribute video, pictures and stories and browse content made by others.”
- The Jakarta Post – “With your cell phone camera, you can take photographs of anything that you think is interesting. You may also send reports on any events or other topics of interest…Be a citizen journalist!”
- CNN iReport – “iReport invites you to share your story with CNN, and quite possibly the world. Log in to get started.”
So what’s wrong with this? Well maybe nothing but political economists are avid dissectors of EVERYTHING and it’s possible that citizen journalists have been fooled into feeling empowered.
Bear with me!
Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky wrote a kick-arse book called Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. They talk about media bias – specifically how it happens because of the recruitment of right-wing people, internalised prejudices “and the adaptation of personnel to the constraints”. I particularly like that last point – it reminds me of how women CEO’s are often criticised for failing to fight the good fight for women. Hard to do if one of the chief reasons you are CEO is a proven ability to work within the existing power system.
I tend to think that people contributing to mainstream media outlets are just melting into today’s power structures…what makes them resistant to the pressures Herman and Chomsky describe in their “propaganda model“. But hey, what do you think?