New Media and Citizen Journalism


Content: We explored some of the purposes of news media, including its relationship to democracy and modernity, as well as some of its problems, such as the “uses and abuses” of media that impact its reliability and the extent to which citizens can/should trust the news. Along the way, we learned a bit about the history and development of the press from its beginnings, from the role of scribes as “publicists” (Gladstone 3), to Caesar’s Acta Diurna, to the growth of the print newspaper, to the “disruptive” nature of Tolo TV (Hoffman) and mobile telephony (Hoffman 53). And as Gladstone notes, with each of these “information technology advances,” “control begins to pass from the powerful to the plebs” (Gladstone 7). As we can begin to see, the technologies of the press, at each stage of their development, changed the way in which information could be communicated and controlled. Today, as the political rhetoric continues along highly polarized lines and a global pandemic spreads, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are challenged to balance freedom of speech with responsibility for controlling the propagation of misinformation online. And the debate that Malcolm Gladwell fostered ten years ago questioning the effectiveness of social media activism, contrasting it to the “strong tie” strategic activism of the Civil Rights Movement, has continued through more recent campaigns such as the #MeToo movement and today’s #BlackLivesMatter protests.
It is in that context that, for our second essay, we’ll explore in more depth the particular impact, for better or for worse, of “new” media, social media, and the rise of “citizen journalism” on the ways in which we consume news, “make” news, and advocate for change.
Write an essay in which you explore the promises and the pitfalls of “new” media, and evaluate the extent to which these new, digital/social media give citizens the power to effect social, economic, and/or political change.

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