Participatory Journalism, the hope of democracy?

As someone who is studying in what people around me often call as “a good combination of majors” which includes Communication Studies and Sociology, sometimes I strongly think that it is a brilliant decision of mine; the rest of the time, I quite regret it. During the process of learning to make sense of the world from the most possible non-biased perspectives as a future sociologists, I have learnt that the media, a part of the social structure, is playing a huge role in shaping our thoughts, and even more than that, collaborating in the creation of social issues by not telling us the truth, However, at the same time, I am learning to possibly become a successful PR person who is definitely expected by my employers to be able to craft the stories, to know what to tell and not tell, to hide what does not favor our customers and to highlight what does. Perhaps that is the reason why most of the time, I find what I have learnt in both areas to contradict each other. Therefore, despite the fact that I am being challenged intellectually, which is a good thing, sometimes I feel that I do not easily satisfy with any explanation. I am too doubtful. As a result, I usually end up finding myself in between of two opppsite arguments.

Theoretically, participatory journalism is a wonderful idea. When products of traditional journalism are seemingly being less favored by the public due to the disappearing credibillity and when people are able to acknowledge that the media industry, in general, is being strictly controlled by giant media conglomerates, traditional journalism is like a sinking ship. As a result, participatory journalism, the involvement of many amateur journalists and ordinary people in the process of collecting and reporting news that are often not covered by the mainstream media, is expected to give all of us the opportunity to speak out and to open up to diverse ideas and viewpoints. To many of us, participatory journalism is the hope of democracy. It is believed to be the source of news and information for the people and by the people.

Whenever I think of the relationship between traditional journalism and participatory journalism, I usually think of a pot of soup. I am not sure that it is going to be an accurate way of understanding these two forms of journalism, but I believe that to some extent, it can express my thoughts as well as my worries. The product of traditional journalism, or generally speaking, the news reported on major newspapers and magazines can be seen as a pot of soup that is made by one or two chefs (in the media world, these two chefs can quite represent the five or six giant corporations that are controlling our world today) During the process of cooking the soup, the chefs know exactly what the ingredients are and what the taste is going to be since they are the ones who decide to put more or less salt onto it, ect. However, it is obvious that their soup might not satisfy all diners, even though these chefs have experience and proper training. On the other hand, the product of participatory journalism can be a public and communal pot of soup in which each member, as an amateur chef, can put the ingredients that they want and adjust the flovor, just as they are able to put the information that they collect to the blog and to edit or revise the work of others. Obviously, the soup made by a lot of chefs will definitely make each of them think that they are given equal opportunity to make it tasty to them. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the final taste of the soup can satisfy all of them. Similarly, there is no guarantee that the news reported and written by these citizen journalists can be more objective than the ones that have been investigated and sometimes testified by professional journalists and news stations.

Once again, I know that there will be parts of this example that might not be accurate. Moreover, in the area of learning and questioning what is happening to the media industry in general, I am still an amateur critic with many existing biases and different holes in my knowledge. However, what I am quite sure about both traditional journalism and participatory journalism is that none of them is extremely bad or good. Therefore, perhaps it is reasonable for us to think about the concept of convergence mentioned by Boczkowski, that what we should do is to maintain what is good in the old model and combine it with what are the advancements from the new model.

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