Elon Musk’s recent tweet on Twitter elevating the role of the citizen journalist has the media elite in a frenzy. Citizen journalism existed before Musk made the term fashionable, but he has jumpstarted the concept. No longer will voices be blocked or go unheard. Cancel culture has been officially cancelled by Twitter. iGlobenews is a group of citizen journalists. It is part of a growing movement of grassroots media challenging the hegemony of the MSM.
Diana Mautner Markhof, 23 November 2022
Today’s world is characterized by polarization. Whether it be on social, political, economic or environmental issues – there are those advocating for and against certain viewpoints. Mainstream media (MSM) take sides. Only on rare occasions can the reader/listener be sure that the full story is being told.
It is no surprise that being an activist has become a ‘profession’ in modern society. Those voices which scream the loudest (with the help of the MSM) are usually those that get heard. That does not mean that the loudest voice is the right one – it is one among many.
Today it is no longer so important if something is true or false, it is all about the clicks, likes and followers, and also about towing the party line and condemning the ‘other’. As Claire Lehmann, the founder of Quillette (a non-partisan Australian online platform focusing on analysis and cultural commentary), wrote in her iconic essay Broken Incentives, “the most unpopular position a publication can adopt is that of moderation”.
On 11 November, Elon Musk, the new Chief Twit at Twitter, tweeted that “as Twitter pursues the goal of elevating citizen journalism, media elite will try everything to stop that from happening.” Adding, in another tweet: “Mainstream media will still thrive, but increased competition from citizens will cause them to be more accurate, as their oligopoly on information is disrupted.” Elon Musk did not invent the term or the idea of the citizen journalist, but he is jumpstarting it and taking it to new levels.
His 115 million followers took note and so did the ‘media elite’, who erupted with accusations, denials, consternation and mockery, claiming “journalists are citizens” (Condé Nast’s Luke Zaleski). Obviously, Mr. Zaleski and his journalist colleagues did not get the point, or did not want to… Or, as Harry Truman said if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
Musk has set out to “democratize journalism and empower the voice of the people”. Citizen journalism is the idea of integrating journalism into the democratic process. Every citizen, every journalist and especially every citizen journalist should be jumping for joy that more media pluralism and more voices will nudge MSM to rethink their standard operating procedures.
Why is citizen journalism so important today?
The short answer is ‘power’. Knowledge and information are used to further political, economic and social agendas. And what makes matters worse, the other side of the story is often so hard to find because those voices have been shut out by Big Tech, MSM and/or government censorship. Twitter is promising to offer its users a new model for interacting with one another: sharing opinions freely and starting a real discussion. Cancel culture has been officially cancelled by Twitter.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines citizen journalism as “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the internet.” Considering Twitter’s reach (in 2022 Twitter has c. 450 million monthly active users, most of whom are in the US), there is much potential power to be unlocked through citizen journalism.
As a grassroots media startup, iGlobenews also sees itself as a group of citizen journalists. iGlobenews encourages those readers who like and enjoy its articles to contribute to the discussion by becoming guest contributors. The idea for starting iGlobenews was to create a forum where all political, economic and social ideas can be openly discussed. In fact, iGlobenews was denied public funding by the city of Vienna Media Startup Fund in 2020 because the contributors were “not journalists”.
Many other media startups are pursuing similar goals.
The future of media?
Abraham Lincoln’s famous saying: “You can fool part of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time,” comes to mind. When people can actually see/listen/discuss with each other, although they have differing opinions – a new mindset will emerge. No longer is the public reliant on what MSM, high-profile activists and influencers ‘report’, but can form their own opinions by joining the discussion and sharing information.
It is important that government not overreach its power or dictate what its citizens can read and know and what not. Censorship should not be what determines what we see and hear. Today’s social media cancel culture and censorship reminds one of Ray Bradbury’s iconic book “Fahrenheit 451”, where books were banned and burned once outlawed. The burning of ideas one does not agree with does not destroy the idea, but only the pages on which they are written.
Just as Elon Musk is a visionary who puts his money where his mouth is, each person can contribute his/her part by keeping an open mind, sharing information and ideas and being open to discussing them with those who are not in agreement. Allowing the exchange of ideas through supporting media startups of citizen journalists, or actively participating as a citizen journalist in the public discourse will bring people together and promote democracy.
We are all potential citizen journalists whose opinion should be heard.