The Citizen and The Journalist

In the last 5 years there has been a dramatic rise in online social media usage. Not just for mild posts on what someone had for lunch but also more important information such as details during political revolutions and crowd sourced information in criminal cases. The development of specifically non mainstream media based journalism specifically by non journalists has given rise to the term Citizen journalism, referring to regular people, not employed by newspapers or news programs to source stories, investigating and broadcasting information.

Citizen Journalists on the Backs of Blue Birds

Following the April 2013 Boston Bombings, a reported 8 million tweets relevant to the incident were generated by 3.7 million people. An incredible amount of user generated content towards citizen journalism but the question is how effective is it as a journalism practice? I terms of content aggregation, twitter works wonders. information was retweeted up to thirty thousand times, potentially reaching a great number of people, on the other hand a supposed 29% of the tweets surrounding the Boston Bombings were fake or mere rumors. Serena Carpenter points out “Controversy exists because it is assumed that some citizen journalists produce content without traditional journalistic values in mind“, This is a great comment as it explains how so many of the tweets around the Boston bombings were false. When so many people share content with little to no regard for journalistic ethics, inconsistency is to be expected.

regardless of it’s amateurism and unreliability, I argue that social media sites such as twitter still hold a vital role in today’s mass information spread not as a one stop news source for truth but instead solely as a crowd sourced information aggregation system. In 1947 The Hutchinson’s commission for free press identified five requirements for free and responsible press including, “The media should serve as a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism” and “The media should provide full access to the day’s intelligence” two aspects twitter handles well. Twitter thrives as a platform for the fair exchange of opinion and criticism and is accessible by anyone allowing for full access to the plethora of articles being shared and linked daily.


This week I was introduced to the simile, “the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles” (Johnson, 2009), What I think Johnson is saying here is that twitter has power due to it’s sheer number of users and the volumes of content generated daily but I would like to add to this by saying the bridge may hold it’s own made of pebbles but I wouldn’t rely on any specific pebble especially when you don’t know where it came from or why it’s there. For information gathering crowd sourcing is effective quantitatively but fails when it comes to reliable quality.


Johnson, S 2009, ‘How Twitter will change the way we live’, Time Magazine, June 5


4 thoughts on “The Citizen and The Journalist”

  1. Hi again,

    Again, I was really drawn to the effective layout of your blog, and your great linking to it! (Your posts on Reddit make it easier to find your blog to comment on).
    A very expansive topic this week, and I think we both went for the same angle of news aggregation and journalism. Your post was a great read to further my own investigation of the week’s topic.

    Bridges made of pebbles is a great metaphor (not quite a simile! But who wants be doing English again?!) and you explained this very nicely.
    The metaphor could be furthered in the trusting of tweets as verifiable news – pebbles are round and slippery, they would not make the best bridge unless truly strong (or truthful).

    I spoke about the Boston bombings as a positive aggregator of news, so it was nice to read your counter argument regarding the misinformation. Reddit was also a culprit in identifying ‘suspects’ that led to mass wrongful speculation.

    It makes a good point, that “witch hunts” directed by these citizens can be hugely detrimental to news reporting.

    Great job.

    1. Thanks for the comment, I thought about mentioning how Reddit built bad publicity around the bombings but decided to stick with twitter. Good article though, I find it so hard to find good articles on Reddit stuff.
      I’ve always been under the impression that if something is ‘like’ something it’s a simile and if something is something ‘is’ something it’s not, it’s a metaphor… Honestly, I can’t be bothered teaching myself proper English.

  2. Really enjoyed your blog. Love the layout and formatting with the headings.
    I love the point about not trusting a pebble without knowing who wrote it.
    The Boston Bombings Twitter posts being mostly rumours and this being because it is without gatekeepers is a great point, and one I notice is easy to forget. The ability for information to be shared faster online is worthless if the information is just rubbish anyway.
    There’s an interesting article ( that attempts to understand twitters involvement in the London riots. There were 600,000 tweets that were stored and analysed for the topic, I doubt half of them were worth reading.

  3. Very interesting thoughts! There’s a lot that can be said about twitter and I think you’ve raised a few good ideas. The example of the number of tweets after the boston bombings is great, it really demonstrates the functionality of twitter as a platform for sharing information that is ground level and although not always reliable, very current. Well written!

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