The value of citizen journalism within social media when regular media failed

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.

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Source: Gigaom

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.

Solidarity-protests-with-Gezi-Park-held-across-Turkey3

Source: Islamic Invitation Turkey

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.

Source: everywheretaksim

Source: everywheretaksim

Source: everywheretaksim

Source: everywheretaksim

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.

Source: Global Post

Source: Global Post

Source: Global Post

Source: Global Post

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.

Source: Roar Magzine

Source: Roar Magzine

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.

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

By using the internet and mobile phones, every protester took over the role of traditional journalist to distribute information

Source: Motherboard

Source: Motherboard

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.

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Why Instagram?

Instagram was first developed in 2010 by an American company. Instagram is available on App Store and Google Play which enables its users sharing their lives through pictures and videos. It also enables users connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Flicker etc. Since 2010, Instagram has over 180 million active users and 50 million photos are being posted daily with 1.1 million likes generated per second.

 There are five main buttons on Instagram user interface. Firstly, users are able to edit their profiles and follow other users. Following people allows you to see photos that been uploaded by people who is in your follow list. From within the “Homepage” button you can scroll through posts in chronological order by all of the users you are following by. The “Star Icon” button is where you can see photos by other users with most likes. The “Camera” shaped button allows you to take a photo or choose a photo from your device’s photo albums and share it. Anytime someone follows you, likes one of your posts, comments on your posts, or tags you into a photo, you will be notified from the “News” button.

 Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media; it is too big not to join. There are many reasons for Instagram users to find that it is attractive. First of all, Instagram offers 20 different filters that can be used to enhance photos. Users do not have to equip with professional photographic technique, even boring photos can look amazing with some of these filters. Users can also add a caption or hash tags to the photo. Photos with same tags which taken by different users around the world will be categorized in same section. Moreover, the photo can be geotagged from where the photo was taken and the photo will be categorized in specific location. Secondly, just like other social network, Instagram is based on having followers. However, when you are struggling with Twitter character limitations and feeling free to be yourself on Facebook, where every family member is on your friends list, sometimes photos make it easier.

 For personal, Instagram not only provides an opportunity for users to share their stories but also enables users to connect with each other, even someone you will never meet. Taking a glimpse into their lives, you will be surprised how different or how alike you all are. From a photo of your lovely breakfast, to a stunning view on beach, every moment that you deem special can be broadcasted instantly to all of your followers. Moreover, you also will find people with a large number of followers try to use those followings to do something good. It raises awareness on specific events that happened around the world.

 For company, Instagram gives brands a chance to tell their stories through visuals. Social media become an indispensable tool for companies to build and maintain their brand images. Instagram has become a more mature social media platform for marketers to deliver messages and communicate with customers. With creative photos or videos and relevant content to maximize the use of Instagram, followers will pass on the story of the brand to others and increase exposures. In some cases, Instagram can be a useful tool for charity or non-profit organization to promote donation. There are some companies have done a tremendous job within Instagram, among them Nike (5.5 million followers), NASA (1.4 million followers), Adidas (1.6 million followers) and so on. You can find out more brands, celebrities, sports, non-profit organisations on Instagram from its “Notable Users” page.

 Social media have changed the way people communicate and how they reach information. Nowadays, phone number no longer is the first thing that you are given when you try to make friends with others. Adding friends through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram becomes more and more common, especially between young people. People from all walks of life stay optimistic in social media; Instagram is especially emphasized, because of the size of potential viewership. Instagram not only provides a platform for personal users to connect with each other but also offers brands an opportunity to establish a long term relationship with customers. Instagram seems to play an important role in our daily lives; it is excited to see how Instagram continues to grow and how they react to competition within photo sharing industry in the future.