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'High Tech, Low Life' in Context

Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism, also sometimes called bottom-up journalism, grassroots journalism, open source journalism or participatory journalism, can range from blogging about local events to tweeting pictures of natural disasters. As Zola points out in the film High Tech, Low Life, citizen journalism often doesn’t go beyond mere observation and should not be mistaken for traditional journalism. Zola has written online that "although my blog might also count as news, I often do things that aren’t allowed of professional media. I put photos of my own face on pictures . . . I’m not objective."

In an era when anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can create a blog and report on what he or she has seen, citizen journalism is booming around the world. While citizen journalists are not credentialed (a fact professional journalists sometimes bemoan), they can fill holes in mainstream media coverage. Some online newspapers have even created blogs where citizens can post their stories.

Zola says, "As for what a citizen reporter is, I don’t think the professionalism of a journalist applies. Just as long as his news reports aren’t done in a professional capacity, as long as he is willing to vouch for the information he provides and no matter how novel or far-out his news is, it’s all still reliable news and leads.

"As for what citizen news is, that would be unfiltered, independent, non-objective and diverse news recorded and distributed by citizens themselves; only with a variety of viewpoints can objectivity be most closely approached."

Despite China’s efforts to silence citizen journalists who do not adhere to the country’s strict guidelines, there are instances where citizen journalism has altered the actions of the government. Hundreds of millions of messages are sent daily through Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter). The Chinese government has modified its actions on a small number of issues because of massive pressure from Sina Weibo. Some citizen journalists have also broken through China’s censorship, and others have stopped violence against citizens and child slavery. In China, these successful cases are few and far between, but citizen journalists continue to risk persecution to post photos, articles and videos countering the staterun press.

» ABC News. "'Citizen Journalism' Battles the Chinese Censors."
» Al Jazeera. "Chinese Citizen Journalism Succeeds."
» Glaser, Mark. "Your Guide to Citizen Journalism." PBS Mediashift, September 27, 2006.
» Kennedy, John. "China: Zuola on How Citizen Media Should Work." Global Voices, December 22, 2007.
» Nikkanen, Hanna. "They Shoot Citizen Journalists, Don’t They? Curating or outsourcing? Opportunities and Threats in Post-gatekeeper Journalism." The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, December 10, 2012.

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