The age of citizen journalism is upon us.
Once upon a time the dividing line in a population was whether you could read or not. In the era of blogs, Youtube and Twitter, the relevant distinction has become whether you publish or not. And with high definition cameras like the Flip or the Kodak zi8 going for less than a couple hundred bucks (hell, you can just use your Iphone) reporting has never been less exclusive.
Take ustream for instance, if you have a net connection and a camera, you can use their service to stream live video for free. So you can be covering protests in the street in Teheran, interviews with Indians in the street, national sporting events – live.
A few years ago we ran a piece on Alive in Baghdad and citizen journalism, a project which put video cameras in the hands of ordinary Iraqis to tell the kinds of stories that weren’t being covered by the international media. For once we heard the news from ordinary people not trained in news-speak and it was a breath of fresh air.
But can citizen journalism really take on off its own right in other contexts? Can a good story have any chance of cutting through the noise of a million feeds as any idiot wanders around the world with a camera in their hands? Is citizen journalism just a symptom of cultural dumbing down?
The answer is that new media platforms will need to evolve to meet the new content. No longer will a handful of media moguls determine what is and what isn’t appropriate for public consumption, the web will itself decide.
Take the Road Junky Film Festival this May – we’re seeing quality entries coming in from film makers and travelers who would never normally find an audience for their work. Those shortlisted will have their films seen by tens of thousands in a single night.
Not every traveler with a video camera will become a prize-winning journalist or change the world with their footage but with a fairly small investment, they can become part of the emerging community of ground-level reporters and documenters who are fast replacing the traditional networks as the eyes and ears of the world.