Semester in Review: Citizen Journalism and Media Monopolization

by sn2s

In our book, The World News Prism, Hachten criticizes* citizen journalists as being untrained and unprofessional. He also wrote about the trends towards a media monopoly. I don’t quite agree with the evaluations or conclusions being made.

I have noticed a minor contradictory or conflicting view. Hachten worries* about media becoming monopolized, but somehow doesn’t think of how that might influence “professional” journalists. Don’t tell me for one minute that journalists aren’t motivated by certain agendas. Be they government pressures or corporate pressures.

Sure, citizen journalists can be bought too, but professional journalists are inherently tied to a centralized structure. Big corporations have agendas. These agendas are reflected in policy and in gatekeeper decision making processes.

Traditional outlets are monopolizing not because of a lack of regulation, as Hachten proposes*, but because of a failing business model. Conglomerates are formed out of desperation. Further regulations would only speed the downfall of smaller, struggling outlets. They are “monopolizing” to survive.

It’s easier to cash out and sell a failing business to a larger corporation than to compete with the internet, other local outlets and the larger firms. This brings me back to citizen journalism.

Frankly, there are many stories that would have never made it around the world by traditional means. Gatekeepers simply aren’t telling the stories that really need to be told. The strong demand for personalized news feeds and access to stories gives more reason for traditional outlets to provide content through widely available online means. But it’s up to them to compete with citizen journalists, or to find a way to integrate.

Billions of dollars flying around and they cannot brainstorm ways to use citizen journalists?

It’s easy to say “citizen” journalists aren’t trained professionals. But what about journalism students who want to be freelance or fail to find a job? These are in fact professional journalists. They simply don’t have editors and gatekeepers. I previously mentioned how social media enhances photojournalism.

People share and tweet causes they are passionate about. Causes can be widely endorsed and still be false, such as the Kony 2012 propaganda. “Newsworthy” material can be picked up by national and local stations, but turn out to be a hoax. Jimmy Kimmel anyone?

Despite what Hachten implies*, citizen journalism is here to stay. Again, he is worried about monopolies killing diversity in coverage, but shrugs off the most diverse sources for information. Citizen journalism will remain far into the future.

It will remain as long as mainstream organizations fail to provide accurate information or remain silent on clearly newsworthy material.

It will remain as long as they neglect reporting global news.

It will remain as long as governments prompt dissent.

It will remain as long as people have cameras, cell phones, computers and stories.

*His opinion isn’t explicitly stated, but more implicitly weaved into the writing, if he or Scotton care to dispute, comments section down below.