Every individual has the potential to become a journalist. By Joanna Stevenson
It is an understatement to say that the Internet has shaken the media industry – it has revolutionised it. The Internet has given voice to individuals via social media and micro-blogging, and all they need is a camera and the ability to write clearly and effectively to project their opinions for everyone to see. Thus, every individual has the potential to become a journalist.
This development of the citizen reporter has been accentuated by the smartphone revolution. Mobile phones with dependable internet connections and high-quality cameras give people the opportunity to record events and then share them instantly. The media industry around the globe were initially threatened, but soon realized they had to adapt.
It was not all dark for the media moguls, who had an opportunity to leverage every individual as their journalist. This gave rise to citizen journalism – tapping into the populace that happens to be at the right place at the right time when an important newsworthy event takes place. Major news organisations such as the BBC, Al-Jazeera English, CNN, and the Guardian, among others, were quick to incorporate individuals into their reporting of major events. These news organisations produced their own apps for iOS devices, and people could use them to access news as well as to upload newsworthy pictures, video or text. Uploading directly to the app allows news companies to verify the authenticity of the information. CNN’s app is called iReport; an extra feature in their project is the assignment feature, whereby CNN can post specific news assignments for individuals to report on.
We are now witnessing apps that are primarily like mirco-blogging apps – but their purpose is to post news and pin it on a map. Mereporter does just that. The application is available on iOS and Android phones. You can post videos, photos or texts and tag these to a location via geo-tagging. Other users can then look up news by location or by the friend who posted it. The app Signal has similar features, but people are also able to vote on stories. The more votes a story gets, the more people can view it. This means that local or unimportant stories will automatically be filtered out. Such a feature is still lacking in Meporter.Rawporter is another variation, where users earn money by selling images and videos that are newsworthy. Android tablets and phones have their own family of citizen reporting applications like iWitness and Meporter – which suggest the change is industry wide.
Mobile phone manufacturers also believe individual reporting to constitute a bigger part of news of the future. Apple has already gone ahead to patent what it calls ‘Automatic Video Stream Selection’. This patent will allow Apple to create a feature rumoured to be called the Report or Interview mode, and is discussed in this article. While recording video, the iOS device will take video and audio input from two cameras and two microphones placed on the front and rear of the phone. Users will be able to switch the camera in between a FaceTime call with this new feature. This feature will give people the ability to interview like professionals!
The evolution of reporting has impacted news in multiple ways. Firstly, it has enhanced the quality of reporting, as the authenticity of an image or video uploaded from Android or iOS device cannot be questioned since they are geo-tagged and marked. Secondly, news can be confirmed from a variety of unbiased sources which confirms the validity of the report itself. Lastly, it is in essence a democratic way of reporting which inherently empowers the individual. As the idea of citizen journalism develop further and integrate into our society, it will promote the basic rights of man and uplift the society as a whole.