As of 2017, a study found that almost 70% of adults get their news from some form social media platform. Information has become available at the touch of a button. From online news journals, to blog sites, to Twitter, journalism has become increasingly accessible—not just for the reader, but also for the writer. With the growing popularity of amateur blogs and mainstream media like Buzzfeed, people look less and less to professional news outlets.
We live in a culture full of false reporting and alternative facts. The Internet allows almost anyone to become a writer. It also gives the ability for the masses to decide what’s important through the power of clicks. Therefore, we are presented with news that channeled through Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
It’s easy to understand this current situation solely as an issue, but amateur journalism is also a solution to a specific problem. The rise of news through social media gets to the core of the nature of journalism. According to the American Press Institute,“The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.” And, in order to best inform citizens towards this purpose, they must be connected to current events and real people experiencing them. In order to grow in empathy and wisdom, one must hear the stories of a variety of people.
Voices of the black community against police brutality that were once silenced rise through Twitter and Instagram through the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Cries of women whose stories of assault were shut down are now shared through the #MeToo movement. These hashtags became trends that reached global audiences. These movements share present concerns of the everyday person. We receive personal stories, coupled with a variety of perspectives; now, we can easily get multiple sides of the story.
In trying to understand the credibility of such journalism, it is helpful to consider the internet and its avenues for amateur journalism as a new, developing form of literacy. There was a time in history when only scribes were able to write and transcribe texts for the larger population. Scribes were carefully trained for their jobs. When the printing press was invented, the accessibility of texts grew. Students began to learn to read and write in school. Now, with new technology, generations today and of the future will also begin to develop new types of literacies necessary to be able to interact with online journalism and produce amateur journalism well. Now, as most students will eventually or perhaps already are publishing their own thoughts on the Internet, it seems only reasonable that our education systems will adapt to that. Students are learning to filter through news and spot fake news instead of the editors and peer reviewers who once did those things for them. In this way, amateur journalism pushes us to create a more well-informed, well-educated society, necessary for us to interact with such a vast spread of information.
If at the heart of journalism is a real desire to tell the truth and inform the public, there is no better path than that of the amateurization of journalism. Gaining and sharing information is incredibly easy in this day and age; we need to know how to communicate well. People can now publish their own stories and use not only the power of writing but the power of liking and sharing to propagate change. The impact on social change for minority groups such as women who have experienced sexual assault and were not previously heard through amateur journalism not only outweighs the detriments of this amateurization but also is a dutiful cause professional journalism is now compelled to address. The scope of the perspectives and stories shared has grown and caused change for the better, providing voices to those once silenced and forgotten. By gaining different perspectives and interacting with ideas more broadly–not just leaving it to some higher up–we create not just a better form of journalism but a better society.
“News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017 | Pew Research Center,” http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/. (Accessed November 7, 2018.)
“What Is the Purpose of Journalism?” American Press Institute. https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/what-is-journalism/purpose-journalism/. ( Accessed December 7, 2018)
“Statistics About Sexual Violence,” National Sexual Violence Resource Center. https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf(Accessed November 7, 2018.)