Civic Activism

The power of social media has grown to influence many important issues in our lives, from citizen journalism to civic engagement we are changing the old hierarchy of news gate keeping.  Civic engagement is the engagement of citizens in local city government and local organizations.  Activism can be defined as anything from sharing a link online with friends and volunteer work to giving money to a charity or cause and voting for mayor as well as president.  Both Civic engagement and activism combined have changed our lives with social media and the introduction of the Internet.  The interconnectedness of our generation has enabled us to uplift the act of citizen journalism to new heights.  The galvanization of revolutions across many countries in the middle east where started with Twitter and Facebook, such information would have not been available if not for the availability of the Internet.  Stories in the United States such as the suicide of Meagan Meier who hung herself after being bullied on Facebook by a young boy, the murder of Trayvon Martin who was chased down a dark ally and shot by a racist neighborhood watchman, and an unarmed Oscar Grant who was tackled in a New York subway by police and shot to death all have been leaked due to citizen journalism.  Ordinary citizens who just happened to be in the right place at the right time ready with their phone cameras spread information that otherwise would have been neglected by the old dominant news corporations.  Meagan Meier’s story although aired on the news was classified, the identity of the young boy who convinced her to kill her self was leaked through concerned and outraged citizens who leaked the information after they discovered that it was her adult female neighbor posing as a young boy.  Trayvon’s story raised outrage through Twitter, Facebook and other social sites after his shooter was released without trial for weeks until public pressure forced police to open an investigation.  Oscar Grant’s shooting was captured on a citizen’s phone camera and posted on the internet, the news stations ignored the story until the video went viral and sparked outrage among Americans, which ultimately forced the news stations to air the story.  Although our generation has lost interest in the old news formats, we have not lost faith in news its self; instead we took journalism into our own hands.  Citizen journalism could not have become as effective as it is today if not for the Internet, which changed our news as well as our consumption of information in a very rapid pace.  Such technological advancements have helped us promote online public dialogue among citizens through the immediate distribution of information, as well as challenge social injustice, gatekeepers and the agenda setting nature of media.  Every tool has its pros and cons, technological determinism does prove that even though we are connecting to one another and informing each other of information that is news worthy, we still produce plenty of garbage that circulates between servers.  Our generation is not disregarding or losing interest in the news, instead we are reporting the news.

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2 thoughts on “Civic Activism

  1. I don’t completely agree that our generation has lost interest in old news formats. For example, I do not read the physical newspaper, but I will read newspaper websites. I think that we still used traditional journalism, maybe just in new ways. Civic journalism is a very interesting idea, especially concerning how it is tied in with social media. However, I do not feel that it is completely replacing older forms of journalism. People are passing around information at lightning fast rates and adding new elements to news stories. We are reporting on things we see and here. Often times the stories civic journalists are reporting on are stories they hear about via traditional news outlets. The Travon Martin case for instance, started trending on social media because people heard about it on the news. Civic journalism is another level of journalism that I believe relies heavily on traditional journalism. In addition to civic journalism getting information from traditional news, many of us often look to the news to verify what we read on social network sites. I never fully believe much of what I read on Facebook and Twitter and if I read something intriguing on one of these sites I look to the news to back it up. There have been many false stories floating around social networks. You state, “Such technological advancements have helped us promote online public dialogue among citizens through the immediate distribution of information.” I see that as a very valid point, but I do not see us ditching traditional news outlets any time soon.

  2. I agree that civic journalism is a welcome addition to the traditional forms of news media. Civic journalism is a good way to counter any of the bias or agenda settings the major news corporations may hold. Civic journalism is of up most importance in countries who have oppressive government control over information. As we saw with the Arab spring, the movement was able to take off due to civic journalism and the use of social networking sites. Civic engagement isn’t without it’s flaws though as was the case with the Trayvon Martin case. I think civic journalism went too far with that story therefore interrupting the judicial process. Because of the way the story was told and spread around everyone had already decided the verdict before the trial even began. Now obviously George Zimmerman was in the wrong for killing Trayvon but as far as his motives and what led up to the shooting was still not clear but the public had already labeled him a racist and that was that. There was still plenty of evidence being collected that showed there may of been more to the story and some instigation committed by Trayvon that could of led to the incident. However the public really didn’t seem and were out for blood. Then there is of course the wrong address posted by Spike Lee. Civic journalism is certainly important but there still needs to be a type of gatekeeper to facilitate the information distributed.

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