The Media Industry is changing. The coexistence of Professional photojournalism and citizen journalism and its problems

Bachelor Thesis, 2013
28 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of content

Rodney King Beating

Social Media Case Study
Be the first on the site.
Citing Work
A possibledissident?
Can aphone photo generate sympathy?
Ethical Aspects of Photojournalism

Peoples expectation on Image Quality?
From an image editors view

Chapter I - A brief overview

Journalism and the whole media industry as we know them today are changing dramatically. Through the rapid development of smart phones and the improvement of cameras we are noticing a dramatic change in the way journalism is used and how photojournalism is affected. The usage of"citizen journalism" has increased hundredfold and it is still rising.

In this dissertation I want to take a closer look on this new phenomenon to discover if it is becoming a problem for professional photojournalists and if it affects the way how images are published.

Every professional news agency today has many further sources - such as twitter, Flickr or Facebook - to choose from, which is advantageous on the one hand, but isn't it a step in a direction that could let professional photojournalism "die"?

But what are the reasons for that? Is it the next logical step in the development of photojournalism or is it "killing" the classical photojournalism, as we know it?

In this dissertation I want to find out how professionals and citizen journalists coexist and what are the possible problems that this relationship could cause.

To understand what citizen journalism is in detail, I want to take a closer look at the three variations that this kind ofjournalism has for me. To find a precise definition is not easy, as this kind ofjournalism is relatively new and even sources like Wikipedia don't find a clear answer.

1. Accidentialjournalists

In the broader sense, all eyewitnesses with a smartphone are accidential journalists, as they witness a situation because they pass by.

2. Amateur journalists

A good example for amateur journalists are bloggers who might do a lot of research and try to expose hidden issues.

3. Citizen journalists

Citizens with a clear vision and political or humanistic interests are best suitable for the term "citizen journalist".


In mid-November 2011, CNN launched a Plattform which is called Ireport. On this platform everyone can submit stories and images to be published on CNN.

As a result, Jack Womack, Senior Vice President of CNN, sent out a memo to the staff:

"We looked atproduction demands, down time, and internationaldeployments. We looked at the impact ofuser-generated content and social media, CNN iReporters and ofcourse our affiliate contributions in breaking news. Consumer and pro-sumer technologies are simpler and more accessible. Small cameras are now high broadcast quality. More ofthis

technology is in the hands ofmore people. After completing this analysis, CNN determined thatsome photojournalists will be departing the company."1

After this memo, CNN laid off 12 professional full-time photojournalists and made a subliminal but critical statement about photojournalism.

“In an age when anyone with an iphone can tweet breaking news pictures, the photojournalist is going the way ofthe pterodactyl."

CNN can't be blamed for the dismissal of photographers, as it was a business decision which is absolutely comprehensible in a time where every company has to look at its numbers.

This is not surprising when we listen to Frederic Filloux of mondaynote:

“Many wondered why the Yahoos, Googles, Microsofts, where unable to setup news

organizations despite their incommensurable wealth (to put things in perspective: Google

spendsfive times more eachyearfor its datacenters than the New York Times spendsfor its

entire newsroom). Part ofthe reason is the return on such an investment. Financially

speaking, the news business is not very appealing. Seeforyourselfin this revenue per employee table."2

Google being the 100 index :

Amazon: 85

Microsoft: 53

News Corp: 47

Yahoo: 40

Washington Post:...19

NYTimes: 22

Gannett: 13

McClatchy: 10

As we can see clearly trough this statement, the newspaper industry needs to change itself, as newspapers are fighting against social media in a way as well. It is strange that the industry is killing itself while it tries to compete against the 21st century and its development. Newspapers use information they get from social media to use it against social media on their own websites.

Now as we identified a possible problem, I will take a closer look at the first appearances of citizen journalism with the example of the Rodney King Beating.

Rodney King Beating

As an important evidence for one of the first published eyewitness photography cases, I want to point out the Rodney King beating on 2nd March 1991, which can be seen as the first appearance of citizen journalism.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1: George Holiday, 1991. Screenshot of a Video. Associated Press Archive

Citizen journalism, eyewitnesses with cameras, as we know it, was born on exactly this day, when George Holiday, a plumber from Canada, witnessed how 4 police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department beat the Afro-American Rodney King almost to death. Without George Holiday and his camcorder, which he had bought a couple of weeks before and had never used so far, there would have been no evidence for this unlawful action. With him, the first citizen journalist was born. It is very interesting as well, that he seems to combine various different 'reincarnations' of "citizenjournalism" in one person. He is an "accidental journalist", as he just passed by and maybe we can say that he became a "citizen journalist" afterwards when he decided thatthe things he had witnessed were wrong and the media he just recorded hat to get published.

Chapter ll-A comparison

Citizen journalism has become one of the most important sources for current events as the Arabic uprising in Egypt, Libya or Syria. Websites like twitter, Flickr and YouTube support citizens broadcasting and communicating all over the world. After we defined what citizen journalism is and how it directly affects the role of professional photojournalists, I will talk about the major differences between citizen journalists and professional photojournalists and the role of social media in this development.

Flickr has, according to own information, 5000 uploads per minute and more than 77 million unique users3, which makes it one of the 50 most used sites on the Internet. YouTube is without doubt the "big player" in this case, as it has 4 billion video views per day and 60 hours of new material is being uploaded per minute. The possibilities with these websites are nearly endless, as it is easy as never before to publish your work and your media to the world. If you want your interview to be seen, YouTube is the right place for it.

A citizen photographer can use Flickr to publish his pictures under a Creative Commons License all over the world within minutes.

A whole industry is changing. The Internet fastens our society like never before. Maybe many people believe they can't live without it anymore, as the possibilities for uploading and streaming content are easier than ever before.

In countries where the government censors the Internet, these websites are often the only possibility for citizens to communicate with each other or with people from outside these countries and tell their stories. It is also the almost only possibility for news agencies to gain information about incidents.

Social Media Case Study

As a famous example we can have a closer look at the Arabic uprising and Egypt as protestants used social media to communicate their message to the world - here we have a sort of citizen journalism - and communicate with each other.

In the first days of the Arabic uprising in Egypt, the opposition mainly used Facebook to communicate and organise protests.

Just like every other unfiltered flow of information - extremist governments don't appreciate that - Facebook was banned from the Egyptian Internet within 6 days. After Facebook was available again, it gained over 700,000 users in less than a week. That makes Egypt the Number One African nation in having 5,200,000 Facebook users.

But that was not really a problem for the opposition, as there are other services on the Internet like twitter, which became one of the most important tools for broadcasting news out ofEgypt. Between January 24th -30th, Twitter monitored 1,317,233 Tweets related to Egypt. The Number ofTwitter Accounts in Egypt increased 10fold in January. This extraordinary movement shows in a good way how important the Internet and social media become even for political movements.


1 "Where Have All the Photojournalists Gone?" N.p., 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 01 Feb. 2013. <>.

2 Filloux, Frédéric. "The Oxymoronic Citizen Journalism." Monday Note. Monday Note, 16 May 2010. Web. 15 Mar. 2013. <>.

3 Michel, Franck. "How Many Photos Are Uploaded to Flickr?" Flickr. Flickr, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 05 Feb. 2013. <>.

Excerpt out of 28 pages


The Media Industry is changing. The coexistence of Professional photojournalism and citizen journalism and its problems
Middlesex University in London  (Art & Design)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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medien, fotografie, journalismus, fotojournalismus
Quote paper
Martin Förster (Author), 2013, The Media Industry is changing. The coexistence of Professional photojournalism and citizen journalism and its problems, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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