Citizen journalism, what is it?
Basically, it refers to information (in the form of images, text, audio and video) that is communicated by members of the public as opposed to by professional journalists. This is all possible as more and more ordinary people have access to instant phone cameras, and social network platforms, which allow their images and narrative to be sent across the world in seconds.
With regard to the brief that requests that we find examples of news stories where citizen journalism has exposed or highlighted abuses of power I started to think of recent (and not so recent) news items.
My first thoughts were political in relation to past expenses scandals and so on. Then I thought about abuses against children and women by people in trusted positions; surgeons who provide unnecessary and life damaging operations; abuse and neglect in care homes; poor service and high costs of monopoly utility companies; first in my mind though was the horror of Grenfell Tower.
The scandal that innocent lives were lost as a result of companies and councils trying to save money is a terrifying abuse of power (my blog page here is becoming an example of citizen journalism). I have looked for images relating to this catastrophe and came across this here (the one with the banner saying ‘we need justice’. It is impossible to know who took this image; a professional or a member of the public. However, even if the image is not an example of citizen journalism it is certainly representing a public reaction to the tragedy.
The image highlights the anger felt by the population at the way ordinary lives have been disrespected. The wording ‘WE NEED’ shows a unity and a demand. NEED, instead of ‘want’ signifies that there is a lack of some basic requirement and not just a desire for answers. The smaller wording ‘of the many’ suggests a huge uprising of ordinary people against those in power. The lady in the centre has an expression that suggests she is shouting and passionate about what she is saying.
We don’t need to see the full banner to know that the last word is JUSTICE and the fact that we mentally fill this word in shows how people have an intrinsic knowledge of the demands of the people.
My first thought about Grenfell Tower may highlight abuse of power, but I am not sure if it is actually citizen journalism so I had another think about it and came up with Donald Trump and the recently distributed undercover video of him using sexist and insulting language in relation to women.
The video can be seen here and though the conversation was recorded by a TV programme, it was undercover and ‘unpolished’. There could be an argument that it was deliberately filmed by professionals to give an amateur impression; to compliment the undercover nature of it. This really does raise questions about citizen journalism – is this professional journalism pretending to be citizen journalism?
The zooming in and out, the flickering and the panning the length of the bus all give a feel that it is a member of the public who has taken the opportunity to record the conversation. It doesn’t look pre-planned or choreographed in any way.
Trumps comments that he can behave in a certain way if you are famous clearly illustrates how power is being abused.
Is this picture objective?
The video appears as though it is just recording everything ‘as it happened’ and showing the event as it is rather than as being controlled by the photographer in any way.
The camera is unsteady and zooms in and out, chopping peoples heads off and flitting quickly from person to person giving the impression that this is not professional journalism; making the video appear objective. The subjects of the video are not ‘arranged’ by the photographer and they are seemingly unaware of the camera at times which also adds to the video’s objectivity.
Obviously we just have a snapshot of this moment in time. We don’t know what happened before it or after it though I struggle to think of anything that could mitigate its horror. Actually, that said, Trump does go on to apologise (eleven years later) when his potential presidency was topical in 2016. Does his apology change how we see the conversation from a decade previously.
At first there seems few subjective photography techniques, but on reflection, the framing of Trump, in the bus window, the zooming in on him and how often he is placed central to the image all help to portray him as powerful.
360, T., Politics, U., York, N., Documentaries, T., Magazine, T., Estate, R. and Women, D. (2017). Donald Trump’s Lewd Comments About Women. [online] NYTimes.com – Video. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000004698018/donald-trumps-lewd-comments-about-women.html [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].
BBC News. (2017). Grenfell Tower fire: No prosecutions for subletting of flats, government promises – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40471554 [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].
ThoughtCo. (2017). What Exactly is Citizen Journalism?. [online] Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-citizen-journalism-2073663 [Accessed 2 Jul. 2017].