Category Archives: citizen journalism

The Great and Powerful Blog

This week our class focused on a different form of social media: blogs. More specifically, the topic for this week focused on blogging, citizen journalism, and digital democracy. What once started out as a way to chronicle one’s opinions and feelings has turned into a dynamic tool used in journalism. For some individuals, blogs are written as a way to provide a point of view that is not being broadcast by traditional media outlets. For others, it is a way to express one’s thoughts and feelings about their day-to-day lives chronicling their personal history. No matter how a blog is used one thing is for sure; blogs have made an impact not only for personal journaling [diaries], but as a way for individuals to take news journalism into their own hands.

Our assigned readings and TED Talk lectures focused on the perks and drawbacks of this type of social media [blogs]. In her TED Talk, Mena Trott opened up her discussion stating that blogs are scary. She is right. Blogs can be an unfriendly place. What we chronicle online can be read by anyone (depending upon settings) and the responses back may be something less than desirable. That being said, blogs do not have to be a scary place. They can be transformed into a place where we feel comfortable writing, as well as a way we can be open with each other and form connections. I found it quite interesting that in a few of the articles assigned for this week mentioned that one of the top reasons behind why some people blog was to build close relationships or connections with other people. For something that is a solo pursuit, I found that to be extremely fascinating.

Because blogging is a solo pursuit, I find that one downside to all of this virtual connection is that even though we are connecting with other individuals, in essence, we are alone behind a computer (or phone) screen. The best way to describe this is a term used by Sherry Turkle in her TED Talk “Connected, but Alone?” that we are becoming “alone together.” This means that even when we are together, we our turning our attention to our devices or online places external from our current location. By focusing on our connections online, we are distancing ourselves from real-time face to face conversations and meetings. Because this form of communication is online, we can also present a false sense of ourselves. Conversations can be delayed, edited, or deleted. Since we can choose what we share on the internet, we can project the type of person we want people to perceive we are. This is more so for individuals who chose to write blogs chronicling their lives.

As for those wanting to write about news, politics, or their profession, one of the most powerful aspects of a blog is how we, the consumer, can take journalism and reporting information into our own hands. Because of a blog’s nature, it is easy to create a website and instantly begin to write posts about anything ranging from personal stories to community events to current world affairs. The citizen journalist is becoming even more valuable than ever before. One of the greatest aspects about citizen journalism is being able to provide a unique perspective on events, which when compared by what is driven by mainstream media, can be a refreshing viewpoint (Revis, 2011). During the 2005 tsunami, “ordinary” individuals began posting pictures and videos of the tragic events before the mainstream media had picked up the news. These people were documenting the events and providing eyewitness accounts via pictures, videos, and testimonies. This is extremely important in that these individuals helped to preserve stories of this tragedy through their first-hand accounts.

Not only does this allow ordinary individuals the chance to express their opinions, but it also helps to provide more balanced reporting. The citizen reporter acts as another check and balance to what is being broadcast by the mainstream media (Revis, 2011). It opens up the creation of news content making it an even playing field between professional and citizen journalists promoting digital democracy. Blogs enable individuals to find an audience that is not blocked by traditional media to discern the truth from fiction (Silberberg, 2008). Since blogs can contain a variety of information from personal journals to professional or news specific websites, how do you know if the information that is being published is filled with credible or reliable information? Because we can hide behind the internet, you never know who is creating the content. There is a combination of things that can be done by both the author and the reader. For the author, they should post a list of their credentials, including education and previous work history. The author should also provide links to relevant sources that connect to scholarly information or mainstream news stories providing evidence for their reporting. That being said, the reader should look at the blog to evaluate whether or not the author has any experience in the topics they are covering in their blog. By the author listing the above information, it can help the reader to determine the quality of the information they find within the blog.

On a personal note, I love blogs. I have been actively reading and/or participating in blogs for at least ten years and have even done some research and presentations on their benefits to libraries and librarians. I discovered blogs while in college when LiveJournal and Xanga were the place to be and be read. As I grew older, my focus turned from reading personal blogs written by friends to blogs written by people in my profession (librarianship). I have found following blogs written by colleagues in my field to be extremely beneficial in my day-to-day work and even in some of my research. These blogs range from personal anecdotes about the profession to reporting professional development opportunities to thought-provoking essays that could actually have been published in a journal or trade magazine. The greatest benefit I have found in them is that they open up a conversation and promote collaboration between individuals who would never have met without the blog.

As I come to an end of this blog post, I realize more than ever the power of a blog. As I type this, I have the opportunity to contribute meaningful information and a unique perspective. We have a powerful tool at the tip of our fingers. If you blog, why? If you don’t, why not?

Additional Sources:

Revis, L. (2011, November 10). How citizen journalism is reshaping media and democracy. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/11/10/citizen-journalism-democracy/.

Silberberg, A. W., & Shapira, R. J. (2008, October 2). Bloggers lead media to report McCain/Palin’s campaign “Lies”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-w-silberberg-and-ralph-j-shapira/bloggers-lead-media-to-re_b_131155.html.