Citizen Journalism: Underscoring our need for (talented) journalists

If I could tell you two words that I would rather never hear again due to the sheer number of times I’ve heard them over the past seven years, it would be “dying industry.”

From the day I accepted my position as my high school paper’s editor-in-chief, I was told not to hold out too much hope that journalism would lead to a fruitful career, because journalism, specifically print, is a “dying industry.”

They credit that death to the rise of blogs, the greater access to free information and the speed at which we transmit information. They’re the next two words I least want to hear when discussing my field of work: social media.

Social media is a tool which can enhance journalism in beautiful, rich ways, but instead is more often used to undermine it. This undermining is usually committed by social media users in an effort to “prove” that journalism is irrelevant, and is perpetuated by social media consumers.

The most recent way in which we have seen that cycle of events is the “citizen journalism” which arose from the Boston Marathon bombings. I must start by saying that there are print publications which got it wrong too, which is definitely irresponsible journalism. However, when you look at the publications who did “get it wrong” or publish unconfirmed information, those were already publications which weren’t held in high regard before this.

Then in comes Reddit, who attempted to crowd-source an investigation. Their efforts to be the heroes and name the bombers, which thousands of trained law enforcement officers and investigative journalists apparently were not skilled enough to do in Reddit’s eyes. This effort resulted in the identification and divulging of personal information of the wrong person, a man who had nothing to do with the attacks.

Because we all fancy ourselves responsible for keeping the world informed, many people took to Twitter to name the man and spread his sullied name like wildfire throughout the social media world.

So when I am told that journalism is a “dying industry” because of our fast access to information, I say that journalism is an essential and gravely important industry because of our fast access to incorrect and inaccurate information.

The worlds of social media and journalism should be more closely linked than they are now. Unfortunately, their relationship is still more antagonistic than anything else. So what can we do to combat this?

Read the news. Read your dailies. Subscribe. Support the news you want to consume. Want left wing news? Subscribe to the Globe and Mail to get around the paywall. Want right wing news? Do the same with the Toronto Sun. But support the news. Create and sustain these jobs. Give our young, talented, emerging journalists a chance to point you in the right direction. Because some 21-year-old Twitter user isn’t going to.

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