Citizen Journalism


Growth of Citizen Journalism 


In his recent masterclass presentation on Citizen Journalism, Dr Nidal Abu Zaki , the founder of Orient Planet Group in Dubai, looked at the emergence of ‘the fifth estate’ as a key factor driving the growth of citizen journalism. 


The Fifth Estate 

Journalism, or more specifically, the press, is known as the fourth estate. The first three, dating from the time of the French revolution, are religion, nobility and commoners. William Dutton, Founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, is credited with bestowing the term, “the fifth estate”, on social media.  


Social media has given citizens the power to reach millions of other citizens, and that is the game changer. The ability to record an event is open to everyone, but the power of social media – previously reserved for journalists – is that citizens may now publish their story to a wide audience. 


Effect on Traditional Journalism 

Dr. Abu Zaki pointed to 5 ways in which citizen journalism has affected traditional journalism: 


  1. Immediate Reporting: Citizen journalism provides real-time coverage of breaking news, often ahead of traditional media.  
  1. Diverse Perspectives: It broadens the range of voices and viewpoints in news.  
  1. Local and Hyperlocal Reporting: Focuses on local events and issues, which traditional media may overlook.  
  1. Collaboration Opportunities: Traditional media partners with citizen journalists, using their content for interactive storytelling.  
  1. Complementing Traditional Media: Fills coverage gaps, especially in areas with limited resources or restricted access.  


In his presentation, he also pointed to the need for media literacy and for citizen journalists to adhere to a journalistic code of ethics. 

ABC of Journalism 

The collaboration between traditional and citizen journalists allows all media to disseminate information quickly. However, speed is only a bonus if the information is ethically sourced, meticulously fact-checked and abides by the ABC of journalism – Accuracy, Balance and Completeness.  


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Note: Journalism in the age of social media and citizen journalism. Delivered as part of the Irish Academy of Public Relations’ Monthly Masterclass Series, September 2023.  

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