“Tweet-debate” on the Benefits and Drawbacks of Citizen Journalism

The Press Association of Madrid (APM) organized a debate on Twitter about citizen journalism in its third “Tweet-debate” of the #Tuitsyperiodigno (#Tweetsanddignifiedjournalism) cycle put forth by the association in February 2013 with the goal of addressing various aspects of journalism.

Through its account, @apmadrid [es], the association launched a series of questions under the hashtag #pciudadano [es] (#citizenjournalism) upon which users began to reflect. As scheduled, Spanish media professionals [es] including Felipe Sahagún, Jaime Jiménez, Juan Varela, Juan Ramón Lucas, Pau Llop y Óscar Espiritusanto, fueled the discussion and responded to the participants’ doubts and comments. Some came from traditional media and others citizen media, thus providing varied perspectives.

The topic of the conference, “Citizen journalism,” and its format are of great interest to members of Global Voices and its readers. As such, the author of this post participated in the “tweet-debate” and shares a selection of messages. (A Storify of the debate can be found here [es]).

Influencia del debate según Tweet-tag.com

Influence of the debate according to Tweet-tag.com

What does journalism with citizen collaboration consist of? Advantages and disadvantages? 

Among the virtues of citizen journalism, users cited the coverage of events and local happenings, the proximity and general interest in the handling of information, recovering the function of anti-establishment that traditional media has lost, while, on the other hand, others felt that the lack of rigor, contextualization, depth, and contrast are flaws that, in their opinion, should be addressed by professional journalists despite the valuable information citizen journalism may provide. Some participants even questioned the term “citizen journalism” and preferred to call it “citizen collaboration.”

‏@espiritusanto: La info ciudadana, a veces, es mas honesta que la de los periodistas y medios censurados o afines al régimen #pciudadano @globalvoices

@espiritusanto: Citizen info is sometimes more honest than that of journalists and censored media or those related to the regime #pciudadano (#citizenj) @globalvoices

‏@desplazados_org@aprensamadrid. Desventaja: el espejismo de que cualquiera es periodista, la mejor excusa para prescindir de profesionales #pciudadano

desplazados.org@aprensamadrid. Disadvantage: the illusion that anyone is a journalist, the best excuse to dispense with professionals #pciudadano (#citizenj)

 ‏@periodistas21@aprensamadrid#pciudadano El periodismo es más rico cuanto más refleja la ciudadanía. Integrarla es una herramienta de gran valor

@periodistas21:@aprensamadrid #pciudadano (#citizenj) The more citizens reflect, the more rich journalism is. Integrating citizens is a tool of great value.

‏@julioelpoeta@XoseMartin No estar ahí, no echar fotos, no contarlo en ningún sitio tampoco. El periodismo deja muchos huecos a los que #pciudadano llega!
@julioelpoeta@XoseMartin Not being there, not taking pictures, not telling it anywhere either. Journalism leaves many gaps that #pciudadano (#citizenj) fills!

Is journalism with citizen collaboration a threat to the survival of traditional media? 

The majority of the comments with respect to this issue pointed out that traditional media and journalism by citizens are complementary, and can and should coexist. In this sense, various tweets advised journalists not to distance themselves from citizens and keep them in mind. “Ways that traditional media can interact with citizen journalism” [es] came to illustrate this part of the debate. The following were some conclusions:

‏@BernaldoBarrena@aprensamadrid El #pciudadano tiene sus ventajas, pero no es rival con los grandes reportajes de investigación. Amenazará los ‘malos’ medios.
@BernaldoBarrena@aprensamadrid #pciudadano (#citizenj) has its advantages but it does not rival big investigative reporting. It will threaten the ‘bad’ media.
@elcontemplador@CesarBritoGlez Cuando los MCS [medios de comunicación] se convirtieron en contenedores de intereses y publicidad pagada y encubierta el periodismo murió #pciudadano
@elcontemplador@CesarBritoGlez When the MCS [media] became contenders of interest and paid advertising, journalism died #pciudadano (#citizenj)
‏@dmartinezpr: .@aprensamadrid el mal periodismo es una amenaza para los ciudadanos y no al revés #pciudadano
‏@dmartinezpr:.@aprensamadrid bad journalism is a threat to citizens and not the other way around #pciudadano (#citizenj)
@paullop27@aprensamadrid Si #pciudadano es 1 amenza para los medios tradicionales, entonces los medios tradicionales serían 1 amenaza para el ciudadano
@paullop@aprensamadrid If #pciudadano (#citizenj) is a threat to traditional media, then traditional media would be the a threat to the citizen

Does citizen journalism threaten the jobs of journalists? 

This question generated another debate on the causes of the journalism crisis, transformations of the current media model, and possible new models. Nevertheless, some responded directly and emphatically to the posed question:

@MosaicoMercurio@aprensamadrid. No más que los dueños de los medios. #pciudadano
‏@MosaicoMercurio@aprensamadrid. No more than the owners of the media. #pciudadano (#citizenj)
@periodistas21:.@aprensamadrid Crisis del periodismo no llega del #pciudadano sino del deterioro profesional, cambio negocio, mercado, tecno y redundancia
@periodistas21:.@aprensamadrid The journalism crisis does not come from #pciudadano (#citizenj) but from the deterioration of the profession, changes in business, the market, technology, and redundancy

Does media produced only with citizen collaboration have credibility? 

There were no unanimous responses but rather an exchange of diverse opinions, and once again a debate about the informative rigor and definition of citizen journalism: Among the supporters:

@JuanraLucas@aprensamadrid #pciudadano Creo que si, siempre que sea la fuente, pero sean profesionales quienes contextualicen las noticias
‏@JuanraLucas@aprensamadrid #pciudadano I believe it does, it should always be a source, but there should be professionals who contextualize the news
‏@matthewbennett: Fijaos lo que digo: incluso se podría montar una buena plataforma de #pciudadano que acabe haciendo mejor periodismo que muchos medios.
‏@matthewbennett: Listen to what I say: a good platform for #pciudadano (#citizenj) could even be created that ends up doing better journalism than a lot of media.

Projects that work on the basis of citizen collaboration like Global Voices, Periodismo Ciudadano [es] and Journalism 21 [es] were mentioned as examples throughout the conversation on Twitter, in addition to articles, videos [es] of conferences, and concrete examples [es] of success.

‏@espiritusanto: p.e @globalvoices es un proyecto de medios ciudadanos informando […] desde lugares ignorados por las cabeceras tradicionales #pciudadano

Participants in the tweet-debate. Source: Tweet-Tag.com

@espiritusanto: i.e. @globalvoices is a citizen media project providing information […] from places ignored by traditional sources #pciudadano (#citizenj)

Online debates supported on social networks are a format that is expanding. They are open spaces in which users can share thoughts, and interact on different issues. Thanks to recently created tools like Storify or Tweet-Tag.com, messages sent during these types of online events are channeled and shared with a wider audience. These tools make it possible to see who participated in the exchange, how often, the messages spread, key words, and data on the audience.

One of the main advantages of online debates is that the reflection can involve large groups of citizens, put them in contact with experts with whom they would not normally interact any other way, sustain arguments supported by graphic and audiovisual material, and overcome barriers of space and time.


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