Recently, the practise of crowdsourcing has gained traction with numerous news sites establishing forums for every day people, like you and I, to post about potential stories. After all, the common man can stretch farther than any lone journalist.
A recent example of crowdsourcing was the Boston Bombing when images of the detonated bomb circulated rapidly, with thousands of people posting speculation online about the pending investigation. Whilst sharing opinions can bring about new theories, are they reliable? Absolutely not. The value of journalism hinges on the degree of truth in a story and cannot be based on conjecture. Today there seems to be a new criterion for measuring credibility. Since the 1990’s the production of the news has changed drastically due to the development of digital technology. It has allowed us to participate in citizen journalism and to collectively edit and produce the “news.” Therefore the passive, unbiased landscape of the news has changed, as stories found via citizen journalism are riddled with opinions and unverified facts.
The truth is, we are unlikely to find answers about the bombing on system like Reddit as these sources are not credible. The images could have been tampered with and the majority of the information is not referenced. Credibility is vital as misinformation in the public arena can be harmful. The destructive nature of misinformation can be seen on sites such as the gawker.com. This crowdsourcing site is pervasive and posts unchecked and untrue content about the location of celebrities in New York City. In 2007 Jimmy Kimmel addressed the sites editor, Emily Gould, about the risks attached to the websites stalker map.
Despite the potential risks of citizen journalism, the wisdom of the masses cannot be denied. Technology has given us the ability to source and circulate news rapidly. We can now alert news teams across the globe about emerging stories by simply uploading a photo like this one.
A man on a nearby ferry captured the first image of the 2010 Hudson River plane crash on his smart phone. The truth is, citizen journalism gives us the opportunity to tell news like never before. With greater access to newsworthy content, we are more capable of uncovering truths and new stories. However, to preserve the sanctity of the news, credibility checks must be conducted feverishly, otherwise the lies will eat the news alive.
For more information on the benefits of Citizen Journalism watch Paul Lewis’s TED talk here.