Citizen journalism: Do they really understand the situation?

Filed Under (Future of journalism, Skills) by on 26-04-2010 and tagged , ,

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement over the weekend about the situation in Thailand. (Media beset by both violence and state of emergency)

The statement discussed the massive censorship taking place by the government — more than 2,500 websites shut down and newspapers intimidated — and violence against journalists on both sides. (Two journalists killed while covering the demonstrations and demonstrators tossing bottles and other debris at journalists.)

But one portion struck me as a lesson about changes in journalism:

Unaware of the risks, foreign tourists have also been “covering” the protests in the hope of being able to sell photos or video footage of the clashes.

These citizen journalists are stepping into situations that could endanger their lives in the hope of selling material to news organizations.

Even the seasoned journalists assigned to Bangkok are nervous about the situation. The RSF statement makes that clear:

Bangkok-based correspondents have little training in covering “conflict zones.”

Journalists understand that at any time we could be tossed into a dangerous situation. And I wonder how many of those currently covering the situation in Thailand ever expected to be in the middle of a series of war zones. (An explosion over the weekend killed a Japanese cameraman.)

But what we all bring to the story is the ability to provide context. That is what our profession requires of us. A picture of a demonstrator means nothing (other than showing anger, frustration, dedication) unless the reader/viewer also knows the story behind the picture.

Pictures and videos help tell the story. By themselves, these graphics cannot tell the whole story.

For more information about the situation in Thailand go to Thai situation dangerous to journalists and media freedom

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