Mapping Digital Media: Citizen Journalism and the Internet

By Nadine Jurrat

, by Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Media Program has commissioned background papers on a range of topics that are important for understanding the effects of new technology on media and journalism. The papers accompany a series of reports, "Mapping Digital Media," on the impact of digitization on democracy in 60 countries around the world.

Citizen journalists have become regular contributors to mainstream news, providing information and some of today’s most iconic images, especially where professional journalists have limited access or none at all. While some hail this opportunity to improve journalism, others fear that too much importance is placed on these personal accounts, undermining ethical standards and, eventually, professional journalism.

This paper summarizes recent discussions about citizen journalism: its various forms and coming of age; its role in international news; the opportunities for a more democratic practice of journalism; the significance for mass media outlets as they struggle for survival; the risks that unedited citizens’ contributions may pose for audiences, mainstream media, and citizen journalists themselves.

The paper ends with a call for a clearer definition of "citizen journalism" and for further ethical, legal, and business training, so that its practitioners continue to be taken seriously by professional media and audiences alike.

Read more on the Open Society Foundation