With the help of digital technology, the usage of social media is significantly growing in the last decade. Online participants now have opportunities to write stories by themselves and share to the world through online platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and blog. Thus, we are no longer only relying on traditional news media to obtain information and the concept of “Citizen Journalism” was born. It brings huge impacts on contemporary development of journalism.
Citizen Journalism can be defined as individuals report information just like professional journalists. Although some scholars, such as Morley Safer, question the quality of citizen journalism, others suggest that citizen journalists are reshaping the news industry and to some extent they provide important opportunities for improving a quicker publication and dissemination of information. (Watson, H et al. 2014) The culture and technology of the internet offer a platform of freedom where governments and news organisations have limited power to enforce censorship on the press. The structure of internet has open up a field which provides a platform that allows public to gather and share information, ideas, thoughts and news at anytime and anywhere. Therefore, citizen journalists try to take over the job when traditional media failed to report the certain events in a country. The importance of citizen journalist can be seen in a case from Turkey which happened in 2013.
A peaceful protest started at the end of May in 2013, Turkish people tried to protect Gezi Park from being sacrificed from urban development plans. At the beginning, it was a peaceful sit-in at Gezi Park to against the redevelopment.
However, the situation of the protest changed substantially when Turkish police violently evicted activists and attacked protesters with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
According to Vice News, there is no or limited report about the protest from local media because they are under the pressure from the government. A group called 140journos, created from three students, trying to gather information of the protest from citizen journalists and report through Twitter account.
As Global Post describes it, 140journos has gained over 300 citizen journalists. Although the government tried to control the access to 3G networks, protesters successfully used public and private networks to stay online. With the help of mobile phone and the internet, protesters could take photos and film videos then instantly share the true story of the protest to their relations and the world.
They utilised Twitter to share information, Facebook to update the status in occupied Gezi Park, Flicker and Tumblr to upload photos and put videos on YouTube. (BBC News) An activist, Damla, answered to Telegraph reporter “It has had a massive impact, and if it wasn’t for social media we wouldn’t have the right information on anything. It’s been our saviour.”At the same time, a hacker group “Anonymous” tweeted that they were going to break down personal website of the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and of the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose leader is Prime Minister Erdogan. They also put links of photo evidence of the police’s violent movement on their Twitter account.
By using the internet and mobile phones, every protester took over the role of traditional journalist to distribute information
when local media did not work at that period of time. Recent study shows that mainstream media in Turkey have cooperated with the government by using exactly same words in the headline to report this certain event. (Yuksek, D 2013) When news media failed to report the truth of certain events, citizen journalists become main sources of information. While the prime minister claimed “Social media is the worst menace to society”, there is no doubt that Twitter and other social networking sites became crucial tools for people in Turkey. Emrah Güler from ROAR Magazine commented that there are three main characters of the protest that made information spread effectively, including humor, structure and citizen journalism. Without the efforts of citizen journalism, people could be misled by untrue story reported by news media that under government’s control.
Turkey is not the only case that can demonstrate the importance of citizen journalism. Although most of them lack of professional training, the power of citizen journalism cannot be overlooked.