The breakdown of the barriers guarding the sacred newsroom from regular citizens’ thoughts and input has led to a substantial amount of commentary from both sides of the pro-am (professional-amateur) spectrum claiming many things about why and how this has happened. Professional and citizen journalists lock horns in debates about the value of journalism, both in legacy and new media. The world we are steadily departing, that of the the daily paper and the nightly news report, is largely becoming outdated as we step into an era where immediacy is paramount and there are thousands of news sources rather than just a couple.
Some claim that old media has become lazy media, that we must seek out our own unbiased and varied sources to educate ourselves about what’s happening throughout the world, or domestically. Some accuse citizen journalists of being too biased and of having little understanding of the process vital to good journalism, but how can we take legacy media seriously when the major newspapers throughout our country are owned by only two major players; News Corporation and Fairfax? Some say that we can depend on legacy media for its consistency, credibility, fairness and accuracy as a part of its long and well established history, but others argue that new media is more worthy of attention because one can always depend on being able to access different points of view, one never has to wait for new content, and there is a consistent feedback loop allowing regular citizens to analyse and contribute to news and opinion pieces.
New media and the world of pro-am journalism has provided a constantly updating list of ways to connect and collaborate, and options for consumption of news which go some way to finding solutions for the woes of both legacy and new media. Twitter is a great example of the transformation of the one-to-many legacy media consumer, into produsers (producers and users) (Bruns 2009). Produsers, or prosumers, since the very beginning of Twitter, have helped Twitter grow into what it is today, and will be in the future. Although Twitter is famous for its hashtags and @ symbols referring us to topics and profiles, it was not the developers of the platform who came up with the idea to use these to accentuate functionality. Contrary to what we may think, it was the users who started using these symbols to connect with people they were interested in, and to follow topics and trends across the platform, and subsequently they were incorporated into the base functionality of the platform after the developers noticed the phenomenon (Johnson 2009). These hashtags and @ shoutouts are what make Twitter popular today.
There are many online media tools which link professionals and amateurs, creating value and lots of real-time information to share. Citizenside, a photojournalism-centred news aggregation site, is also a great example of collaboration between professionals and produsers in new media. The professional team provide the bare bones of the news story, often immediately following an event, and then citizen journalists who experience the events or have contacts in the areas relevant to the story can send in photos, and subsequently have the ability to earn some money from their pictures.
Ultimately, the conversation doesn’t have to be about which is better (legacy or new media), but about the the restoration of credibility, collaboration and accuracy which the two relatively different worlds of news media can generate together in a pro-am approach.
Bruns, A. (2009) ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, Brisbane, Australia (see http://eprints.qut.edu.au/32539/)