Citizen journalism works here and around the globe

Talking to a friend, I made an offhanded comment about journalism in the modern era. To which my friend responded, convinced that journalism is no longer relevant in today’s world, “Isn’t journalism dead?”

With fewer soggy newspapers sitting on driveways and an overabundance of tweets that consume my in box, it’s easy to see why my friend would say that. But I would argue that journalism is more prominent than ever, though it has taken a drastically new approach. In recent years, with the boom of technology, there has been a steady decline in traditional journalism. With the rise of smartphones, tablets and affordable cameras, our generation has seen the growth of a different form: citizen journalism.

Arguably, citizen journalism has existed since the beginning of time, but never dictated the historical events or the voice of a nation, or simply, demanded the stories that should be of interest to the public. Rather, newspaper giants had the authority and power to decide what was newsworthy and how it was presented to the public.

Many have become frustrated with the “liberal” or “conservative” motives of many larger network stations. While attending the very liberal Colorado College, it was so easy to pick and choose which media outlets to follow based on the political ideology they not-so-subtly endorsed. Unfortunately, Fox News was pretty much banned on every TV on campus.

Now, through the eyes of a smart phone, one can capture the demonstrations and protests of the Arab Spring, the horrors of 9/11, or even tell a simple yet heartwarming story of a military dad surprising his kids at school after being deployed for 11 months.

Through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and more recently the wonderfully meme-filled website Buzzfeed, citizens have been able to tell the stories that truly matter to them and in their own words.

Why is it so important? Though many have become wary of social media, people can share their opinions (though not always welcome or appreciated) on world events. When citizens become journalists, they start to tell stories about the community. Though information about big world events is important, the stories about our neighbors, a small family-owned business or a neighborhood event connect citizens. We find ways to dig a little deeper, immerse ourselves in the community and become engaged and active citizens.

Traditional journalism has had to adapt and take on a new role with the explosion of technology, but I would argue it has been change for the better. While citizen journalists become voices of their communities, traditional journalists can share the stories they know would be of interest. In recent years, news organizations have implemented citizen journalism contests to both empower community members to share their stories and generate an unlimited source for powerful and relevant content.

During the 2012 presidential elections, citizens had the opportunity to live-tweet questions to hopeful candidates. This encouraged my generation, the millennial generation, not only to civically engage but also contribute to the news and allow for our voices to be heard in the media.

It is invigorating to know that I, a young, recently graduated 20-something, can contribute to the news and have my thoughts, opinions and ideas shared with the community that I love. Whether it is a short film screened at the local theater, a photograph snapped at a community event or even this op-ed piece, I know that my story matters.

The beauty of citizen journalism is that anyone can become a journalist. Committing acts of journalism is not only effective, but contagious. We are all storytellers, but now we can share those stories and our voices with the world.

Connie Jiang, a 2012 CC graduate, is working with Rocky Mountain PBS and the Tim Gill Center for Public Media to help launch a Citizen and Student Journalism Contest (rmpbs.org/timgillcenter).