Hello gentle readers (props to those of you who catch that reference). As some of you who read this may already know, I’m taking online classes for a summer term this year. One of those classes is Intro to New Media and, wouldn’t you know it, the topic for the next lecture has to do with Citizen Journalism!
Again, as some of you may already know, this is one of my favorite things to talk about! And, kind of the only thing I actually paid attention to for the most part in my first semester at the J-School. At least I learned something, right? And something else good came of it: The MagaBlog (shameless promotion, shameless promotion, shameless promotion…).
Back to the point of this—and there is a point I swear! The point of this blog post is to combine two of my favorite subjects, journalism and history and write about the historical roots of Citizen Journalism.
“But!” You gentle readers protest. “You changed your major from journalism to screenwriting!”
Yes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like learning about journalism—if that makes sense. It just isn’t something I want to do for the rest of my life. But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is the historical roots of Citizen Journalism. Yes, there are historical roots believe it or not. Like, very historical. Important historical roots (in case my friends reading this can’t tell, I’ve had caffeine!).
Let us start with what Citizen Journalism actually is. According to the website Media Smart it is, “when members of the public engage in journalism. Examples include providing pictures or film of events to news organizations or reporting events in blogs.”
Pretty straightforward stuff, right?
A lot of people say that Citizen Journalism started during the 2004 Presidential Elections when people took to the Web and pointed out all the inaccuracies of the mainstream media. Watchdogs they were called. Grassroots journalists. Bloggers.
While it can’t be denied that the whole idea of Citizen Journalism really took off at that time, it didn’t necessarily start there. It actually started in the 1760s.
“1760s!?” You gentle readers cry. “But there were no cameras or film or laptops or Internet or camera phones or any other modern marvels that makes Citizen Journalism possible!”
Well, no. There was however technology of the time: pens, paper, ink, printing presses. Archaic I know, but believe it or not people used these things back then. And use them well they did.
If you recall from your American History classes all those years ago, there was a war between the Colonies and The British Empire: The Revolutionary War! Without which we would not be a country today. Although we might have actual football and chips but that’s neither here nor there.
Part of this great revolution was public involvement—vocal public involvement. This brings us to the historical part of the post, gentle readers. Because you see, in a time without telephones, the quickest way to spread information was print. And since the papers at that time were controlled by the Crown, it was considered “seditious libel” to post things against Merry Ol’ England and King George.
Pamphlets penned by anonymous authors and printed by Revolutionary press owners under the cover of night. These pamphlets were then distributed to the masses and used to fuel a rebellion that morphed into the Revolutionary War. The colonial rebels of the day employed an early form of Citizen Journalism the mainstream media couldn’t (and in loyalist cases, wouldn’t).
Pretty nifty, huh.
And that, gentle readers, brings us to the end of this post, for which some of you are more than likely cheering because, quite honestly, I just read over it and I’m wondering what I’m on.
Oh, wait. Caffeine.
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to glance this over, gentle readers. Even if the effect was more comedic than informative, I’m happy to entertain.
If I do decide to do another post like this—“Dear God no!” You gentle readers beg. “Please stop torturing us!”—it will probably focus on the historical roots of blogging, because without Thomas Paine, I don’t think the concept would even exist (well, it might, but for all sakes and purposes of my next post, let’s just pretend it wouldn’t, ok?)
That’s all for tonight ladies and gents! Please excuse the caffeine induced insanity.