Citizen journalism turns consumers into creators and takes media from lecture to conservation - something traditional media has not been able to do for a long time, Dan Gillmor, of Arizona State University, told over 700 media practitioners gathered in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, on Monday, 9 September 2008, for the 12th edition of Highway Africa.
As citizen journalism continues to surge dramatically around the world, delivering a massive blow right into the heart of traditional media, journalists, analysts and scholars are divided as how to define it and in which context to classify this new form of media, which many fear might take over in the near future.
But Gillmor said: "It is only a shift from the media environment that is adding to the media eco-system, but not replacing it. It is no longer about lecture but conversation and listening. Basically, news media organisations are now working with communities to create a better and participatory journalism.
"In 10 years' time, we are going to see a very strange situation whereby many people will be carrying HD cellphones to capture images and get connected to digital networks.
"I don't know how we will respond to that but it is something we would definitely have to get used to."
However, despite the rise of citizen journalism and the flow of information that is generating, questions remain about the accuracy and transparency of some of that information.
"We would have to find ways to sort out that flow of information," Gillmor said.
Gillmor advised media organisations to encourage their audiences to seek the principles of scepticism (don't believe everything you see or hear), judgement, research, free-thinking and techniques.
Furthermore, he advised journalists to double efforts to seek thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, indepence and, something new, transparency - qualities that will perhaps make audiences to trust them more.
Vincent Maher said citizen journalism is about two types of economies, the old economy (scarcity, selling and corporate money) and the new economy (abundance, sharing and social attention).
"Traditional media is based on gatekeeping and scarcity of space and time and profit maximisation, while social media is all about vast amount of content (seldom of high quality) and attention maximisation," Maher said.
Journalists themselves are a threat
He, however, believes that citizen journalism does not constitute a danger to traditional media, but that journalists themselves are a threat to their profession because they refuse to learn new methods about the new media.
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Issa Sikiti da Silva is a freelance journalist and short stories writer whose work has been published in local and foreign publications, both in English and French. He contributes to Bizcommunity.com as a news writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.