Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years you will have noticed more and more people talking about citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is a movement in which regular citizens, who are not professional journalists, use social media, online blogs or specialised citizen journalism websites to report the news and write about issues.
It can involve anything from tweeting a photo from a local council meeting to live blogging updates from a national protest march. For a Wannabe Hack this all sounds great. But how exactly can getting involved in citizen journalism benefit you? And how can you become a citizen journalist?
It gives you a chance to practice essential skills
Citizen journalism requires you to be able to identify a relevant story, do the necessary research and then write up the piece. If you decide to submit your article to an established citizen journalism site then you’ll get practice in pitching, much like a traditional freelancer would.
If you decide to self-publish on a blog your proof reading and self-censorship will be put to the test as you won’t have a copy-editor to rely on.
It can help you build your portfolio
Having pieces of citizen journalism in your portfolio looks impressive because they show that you’ve used your initiative in generating content and have researched and written pieces without any guidance.
Having done it off your own back proves to employers that you understand the process and don’t need constant direction. And because you can focus on issues that you’re passionate about these articles may prove to be some of your best work.
It could help you get noticed
If you hit upon a story or picture that captures the public’s imagination you could go viral and get your name known. Or you could find that your work gets noticed by an industry professional simply because they saw it online and were impressed by your writing.
So far, so good. So how do you go about getting involved?
Do your research
Be proactive and identify a relevant story worth writing. Finding a hook for writing about an issue which particularly interests you is a great way to start. Twitter is a great place for finding news stories as people often share things there first.
And don’t forget to look locally. Get talking to people in your local community, attend council meetings and local events to find any potential stories.
Never leave home without a camera
As America photographer Chase Jarvis famously said ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you’ and this rings true when it comes to citizen journalism. Though your best chance of finding a story is through research it’s worth being prepared. Camera phones are ideal for capturing spontaneous photos allowing you to edit and upload photos almost immediately.
Get in touch with a citizen journalism site.
There are a range of established citizen journalism sites where you can publish your work or even collaborate with others on pieces.
Here are three worth looking at:
Newsvine allows users to collaborate and combines citizen generated content with that of established media outlets.
Wikinews is a particularly good site because of its commitment to maintaining a neutral view-point.
Demotix allows you to sell photos to mainstream media organisations.
Or go it alone.
The beauty of citizen journalism is that you don’t need a formal forum to publish your story. The ability to self-publish is at the heart of what citizen journalism is all about. Create a blog – as if you don’t already have one – and then get promoting your story on social media… need I go on? You know the rest.