Essentially, traditional journalism functions through a structured “news media house with preconceived objectives to package, report news, issues and people which they would sell to as audiences” (Biriwasha 2011). This describes traditional news reporting, which is very structured and works as a business would to satisfy the audiences need for knowing latest news and information. However, due to the rise of the information age and the existence of technology such as the Internet and the WWW (World Wide Web), there is a much more improved and evolved version of journalism today known as ‘citizen journalism’. Now, regular everyday people can become journalists just by reporting news and information using social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter among others. Thanks to these websites, citizen journalists can provide news and information with a lot more speed than traditional journalism. Citizen journalism defined with simplicity is, when “individuals do essentially what professional reporters do – report information.” (Rogers 2012).
News essentially in real-time without having to wait for the newspaper. – Nafis, F 2012
Those days and even presently, with traditional journalism the process that any piece of news has to go through is ‘gatekeeping’. This is because traditional journalism involves extensive research on a specific story and compiling all the gathered information to come up with a news report that includes all the details. It is a more centralized way of organizing news to be spread through just one platform. This is why it goes through the more centralized process of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping works as “filters for news items which were considered to be unimportant, uninteresting, or otherwise irrelevant for audiences.” (Bruns 2009).
The process of gatekeeping is very centralized and structured as I mentioned earlier, traditional journalism involves a very structured process and environment. This is because it involves more editorial filtering, where editors get to decide or allow what piece of news should be conveyed and what piece of news should not be part of the information spread. Hence, editors decide which stories are newsworthy enough to be published and act as the gatekeepers for independent newspapers and broadcasters. Governments can also act as gatekeepers but only when it comes to public newspapers and broadcasters. Gatekeeping is very centralized because again, all the approved newsworthy stories will be published using one platform.
However, with the rise of citizen journalists there is a new process that follows nowadays, which is now known as ‘gatewatching’. Gatewatching works based “more on information search and retrieval skills especially in online environments” (Bruns 2009). Gatewatching unlike gatekeeping, is more decentralised as it points at, searches for or highlights something. Gatewatchers want to organize what information is consistent among the abundance of information because when a vast majority of people are saying the same thing, there has to be a certain level of truth in it. Citizen journalism is decentralised because the news and information comes from a variety of places, not just one platform. Then, with the decentralized information being collected from all these different sources, gatewatchers organize it to find out what is real and what is not.
Citizen journalism is threatening the very existence of traditional journalism because there are no filters which means it is often easier to get more details on a specific story using citizen journalism. Although not all information provided by citizen journalists or the details of it are accurate, gatewatchers get to do their own research and decide for themselves what is true instead of being fed information by gatekeepers, which could be just as inaccurate because gatekeepers decide what the truth is before the news is spread by traditional journalists.
When information is scarce, content is everything; when it abundant, coherence is everything. – Mitew, T 2012
Biriwasha, CKM 2011, Is Traditional Journalism Facing A Demise?’, iZivisoMag Weblog, weblog, accessed 20/10/2012, http://ziviso.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/is-traditional-journalism-facing-a-demise/
Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, accessed 19/10/2012, http://produsage.org/files/News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf
Mitew, T 2012, DIGC202 Bridge made of pebbles: Social media and the rise of gatewatchers, lecture notes, accessed 19/10/2012, http://prezi.com/sh7b7p0osscz/digc202-social-media-and-the-rise-of-gatewatchers/
Nafis, F 2012, Bridge made of pebbles: Social media and the rise of gatewatchers, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 15 October.
Rogers, T 2012, ‘What is Citizen Journalism?’, accessed 20/10/2012, http://journalism.about.com/od/citizenjournalism/a/whatiscitizen.htm