Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Citizen Journalism

Today in Hammond, there was a false alarm hostage situation at the train depot. Although it turned out to be nothing more than a "prank," as reported by WAFB news, it still presented the opportunity for citizens to share (and declare) news. WAFB aired pictures sent in from a viewer's cell phone, and a reporter conducted a phone interview with a citizen who was at the station waiting to pick up his son.

Of course, this isn't the first time citizens have "reported" the news. Citizen journalists broke the story about the Jet Blue airline holding passengers on the tarmac for 10 hours. During the Virginia Tech shootings, citizen journalists were using their cell phones to video the tragedy as it unfolded.

Is it no longer acceptable for journalists to set the agenda? It may now be up to citizens. Agenda setting is the thought that the media tells us what is important. For example, when newspapers print stories on the front pages on the top half of the page, we think those stories are most important. Thus, we talk about those stories at the water cooler. Many scholars have studied agenda setting, and I enjoy reading studies performed utilizing the theory.

With new technology, however, it seems citizens are setting the agenda for the media. With modern technology, timeliness has taken on a whole new meaning. Are citizens setting the agenda? Well, today, the Hammond hostage story is on the front page of WAFB's website. Is it now citizens' responsibility to set the agenda, or will the gatekeeping media still be in charge? I feel a study coming on...

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

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