Citizen an active role in four processes: collection, reporting,

Citizen journalism, is the term used to indicate the new form of journalism which sees the ”active participation” of the readers through the interactive nature of new media, and the possibility of collaboration between multitudes offered by the internet. For many, it is the new border of journalism, and already many sites are the portals where users participate in the whole web world.  Citizen Journalism term was introduced in 2003 by the theorists Bowman and Willis in the book ‘We media: how audiences are shaping the future of news and information?’ and from Lasica in the book ‘What is participatory journalism?’  ‘Participatory journalism is a healthy trend; however disruptive it may be for those whose roles are changing. Some of the journalism from the edges will make us all distinctly uncomfortable, raising new questions of trust and veracity. We’ll need, collectively, to develop new standards of trust and verification; of course, the lawyers will make some of those new rules.’ (Bowmane & Willis, 2003)According to S. Bowmane and C. Willis, traditional journalism merges with participatory journalism, in other words, the public is no longer a passive listener of the media, but an active subject. This creates a largely different situation: while before the internet, news was accepted as authentic, now, thanks to the many information opportunities, the same news inevitably becomes more varied. This is due to the number of sources involved.  Their definition of participatory journalism is that citizens play an active role in four processes: collection, reporting, analysis and distribution of news and information. J.D. Lasica is a journalist, blogger and social media expert, who defined citizen journalism as ‘a slippery creature’.  (J.D. Lasica, 2003) However, he analyses one of the main concepts behind citizen journalism, which is that journalists and producers have no knowledge on a subject. Traditional mainstream media have tried to exploit their public’s knowledge through comments or through the creation of citizen journalism databases, or news sources. For advocates and activists of this practice, citizen journalism is the possibility to democratize information, since anyone would have had access to the media, not only as a reader or a mere spectator, but by collaborating in the production of the transported material. Furthermore, he adds that anyone knows what is online participation, but is does not always mean journalism.  Given the ease of publishing news on the net, it may lead to a creation of a border, which is unfortunately transitory between journalism and personal publication. Citizen journalism began to spread with the advent of the web, smartphones and social networks.  But, it is evident that going back in the history of journalism, it would be possible to find interesting analogies with what is happening today, such as the active participation of citizens in the world of information. The first form of citizen participation in journalism can be found in Paris, during 1630, with Theophraste Renaudot, which published ‘Bureau d’adresses et des recontres’: the first periodical dedicated entirely to the sale of goods and to job applications and offers. Readers were invited to participate actively in the creation of the newspaper through their own announcements, taking the press to deal with the daily life and not just international news.Moving to England, during Charles II Stuart era (1630-1685), there was a strong censorship regime run by the Stationers’ Company in which Henry Muddiman, director of ‘Parliamentary Intelligencer’ and ‘Mercurius Publicus’ worked. Since the court papers were not able to fulfil the need for information that the country needed, clandestine ‘newsletters’; they were written in coffee-houses, where opponents of the crown gathered. Thanks to them, the currents Whig and Tory took shape, which still today distinguish the English political parties. In the 1960s, in the United States, the so-called ”Advocacy journalism” was born, which developed at the same time as the Vietnam War.  The idea of the Advocacy journalism, represented an anticipation of the sixty-eight seasons, considering fundamental the necessity to multiply the voices of the independent press, which is the ”underground” one, far from the strong powers and with the aim to put in the foreground the public opinion. The citizen journalism acquires relevance in the media, in a very significant way with the attacks of New York in 2001: the citizens used the web, especially blogs, to tell live those dramatic days; photos and movies were then taken up by the newspapers and newscasts. Newsgathering changed hands from professional journalists to ordinary people.  Another example of citizen journalism, were the blogs and websites created by some US soldiers on a mission to Baghdad, during the second Gulf War (2001-2003), who were writing under a pseudonym reporting their versions about the conflict, often clashing with those military authorities, demonstrating how the reality of the facts were often censored, or even concealed.The salient peculiarity of citizen journalism. Is the fact that anyone can be a journalist, anyone can, thanks to developments in the technology and media, document an event or report a news.  Indeed, the same definition of citizen, implies an active role by any citizen in the process of collecting, producing, analysing and disseminating news and information. In practice, opportunities and chances for any individual, without any cultural, ethnic or social difference, to generate media level content. All this, thanks to tools such as social media and blogs which, within few years, have reached a level that allows anyone to express their opinions, preferences and even be a means for information and news. It just takes a phone with a camera, or a video camera, to become a citizen journalist, a journalist of the street, not to be confused with those who, by profession, although much more in the past than now, they ventured on the streets in search of a new story, looking for something to tell and on which to write an article.  Often, citizen journalists are simple people who found themselves in the right place at the right time or wrong, depending from the point of view, and that, thanks to a mobile phone or an amateur camera, have had the opportunity to witness and capture an event: an attack, an accident, a declaration, etc.       Essentially, it could be even hypothesized that Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the assassination of the President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with an amateur camera, was the first citizen journalist in the history. Other names which define citizen journalism can be people’s media, participatory media and grassroots media; anyway, the characteristic that distinguishes all these possible definitions is one: a journalism coming from the ”low” which is within the reach of anyone.   Certainly, we are talking about a new type of journalism, which has only begun to become established in recent years as a viable alternative to traditional journalism and, in some cases, even more truthful and without the censorship which often afflicts newspaper all over the world; mostly in the less developed countries where freedom of the press is constantly hampered.  One example of many: the Arab Spring in Egypt, in 2010, which led to the fall of the dictatorial government of Hosni Mubarak, in which various demonstrators reported, through social media and the web, developments of the situation, often in real time, providing information and chronicles directly from the inside of the events. These pseudo-reporters were not professionals, but it is undeniable that such chronicles would have been impossible, or at least difficult to obtain, for any professional journalist, thus being very significant and important.    Citizen journalism could be understood as an emblematic symbol of the changing society, influenced by the technologies and the dynamism of everyday life; a world which evolves and that through globalization tends to involve more and more people within its processes. Although many journalists of traditional journalism are sceptical towards the advent of this new form of journalism, in terms of quality, reliability and depth, there is a fact which everyone must recognise which is: communication has changed.  At the end, just now, the reader has the opportunity to express his opinion and judgments thanks to new technologies, which allow the spread of journalism that belongs to everyone.Despite having specified the characteristics of citizen journalism, which are: the unprofessionalism of journalists; the spread of this journalism through social media and the web; the ability to narrate events very often in real time, and its irreproachability by governments and the mass media. It does have, though, intrinsic connotations and negative aspects, which also could be understood as the differences that distinguish this new form of journalism, coming from the ‘low’, with the traditional one, the ‘old school’ journalism, produced and distributed by professionals in the sector.First of all, citizen journalism lacks authority and legitimacy, since, very often, the news cannot be verified or ascertained and consequently there are always doubts about the truth of certain news, and mostly, about their reliability.  In addition, the lack of competence, the lack of depth in the news and the inability of these new citizen journalists to distinguish and interpret the various flows of the news correctly, can be seen as the substantial differences between traditional and participatory journalism.As mentioned earlier, the phenomenon does have positive and negative aspects. Starting from the pros: it is noticeable that the level of engagement has increased, i.e. the involvement of the ‘citizen’, holder of the rights and duties, within the information world. The knowledge of the network, has augmented as well, and above all the awareness of having in hand a means able to affect individually within a global such as the web. Another important point, is that with the advent of smartphones, it led to having an opportunity to document anywhere and at any time, offering the chance for anyone to be able to testify an event. Finally, users now have acquired more skills, developing their critical sense and judgement, making the process of collective information much more articulated.  As for the cons: firstly, the delegitimization of the professionalism of a trade such as the journalist one, since citizen journalists could be seen as a threat to the category. Secondly, the increase of fakes on the net, the so-called fakes, which circulate on the web and that, in the absence of verification and secure sources, can mislead and distort the reality of the facts. Additionally, this new dimension of citizen information can appear to be an ambiguous phenomenon, an activity with neither head nor tail, to which it should be given little credit.Citizen journalism is a window on the world that allows young aspiring journalists to be known, but it is a double-edged sword, as history teaches. It is a phenomenon that has taken, recently, on the importance of news, but which, essentially, has always existed in various forms and types. The world of journalism has had various forms, has evolved and has change with society, but has always maintained a peculiarity: the influence on the agenda-setting. This is the common thread which unites traditional journalism and citizen journalism: an element which won’t disappear, either in traditional journalism or in participatory journalism.