Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Citizen Journalism - A Potentially Dangerous Way of Finding the News

Last week in class, we had a Skype session with Sam Gregory of witness.org. I asked him about what types of precautions or measures are taken to protect the citizen journalist. Sam said that instead of worrying about the citizen journalist, he worries more about the subjects of the photos or video that the citizen journalist captures. Sam asserted that on witness.org, the individuals' images in the subject of the frame would be blurred or blacked out in order to protect their identity. The person behind the camera would be naturally protected by any potential backlash or recognition.

But I think anyone in a potentially life-threatening situation should be protected. It can be a citizen/amateur reporter, or an experienced journalist, but all should be careful and wary of their surroundings.


While perusing the Internet on a citizen journalism Google search, I found a partly satirical, how-to article from Gizmodo, which discusses, "How to Be a Citizen Journalist Without Getting Killed." It is a dangerous world out there, and no matter what anyone says, if someone is capturing a moment of civil disobedience, violence, unrest, human rights violation, or anything of the sort - it's bound to be dangerous not only for those directly involved, but also for those who are in the environment and surrounding areas. The Gizmodo article gives practical application of items that would be very useful for a citizen journalist in a dangerous situation. For example, gas masks, pepper spray, a tight-fitting backpack, and a buddy all make the list. Part of this is extremely satirical, for example, when the author Roberto Baldwin, suggests a citizen journalist not bring a friend who's "kinda sorta into this [and] will quickly bail when all hell breaks loose."

These images are true and real -- and captured by regular Joes, like you and me. A quick snapping cameraphone/smart phone, a Twitter account, some practical safety items, and a good ear and eye might be all you need to capture a moment that could very easily go viral and create history. Good luck out in the field.


  1. You've picked a terrific resource to point your fellow students to, which is not only useful for tips for citizen journalists covering conflict zones and protest scenes but also for digital journalists more generally. I thought that their shooting tips on digital photography with mobile phones could be particularly useful to your peers. Despite it's cheeky tone about risk-taking, calling it satirical may miss the seriousness of its useful advice, however.

  2. This is an intriguing post since it draws on further resources for a potentially significant concern for any of us that find ourselves in such a dangerous situation. I also agree with your argument as well, that one should take precaution in such a situation, no matter what title you are given; although I think Gregory was pointing out the significance of the witnesses' safety and anonymity because there could be dire consequences if they are recognized as speaking out against their country, the journalist's situation is endangered primarily for other reasons besides this.