Freedom (of the Press) Fighters

For centuries, citizens have relied on the media to get their news. Whether it be regarding world politics, who their favorite team is trading, or which celebrity is the newest train wreck, people turn to various sources to get information. These are mainly are from print, such as newspapers and magazines, and broadcast, which includes television and radio.

Traditionally, the pieces are delivered by writers, journalists and reporters, almost all of them professional. But in recent years citizen journalism, which refers to idea of non-professionals (usually everyday citizens) reporting, has risen dramatically.

It has become an issue today, because some feel that it is not the responsibility of the general public to report and that they should leave it up to journalists and others in the fields. Also, their stories might have a severe lack of objectivity given that the are not coming from trained or schooled sources. Others, however, see it as a free right.

Young people have taken notice, mainly because they are one group engaging in the activity.

So how exactly do they feel? Students at Nassau Community College had a lot to say, and they were privy to the seeing positives of the issue.

“ When people are not driven by agenda, they are free to write about what they really believe in.” Said Adam Michaelson.

Michaelson’s comment refers to the fact that since citizen journalists are less likely to be governed by a boss or editor, they have the choice to select what topic they would be most interested in covering, or one that might hit the closest to home. For the latter, many have set up blogs, on-line journals illustrating views on everything from day-to-day life, to opinions on movies or political races.

The internet has blasted citizen journalism into the stratosphere. Technology has given us the means to get our ideas out in the open without even having to leave our bedroom. E-mail lets stories be sent back and forth instantly, while search engines make finding a fact which might have taken hours of research to come across in earlier times available in only minutes. Blogs, which can be created for free, let a person report or commentate at whatever length and rate they choose. As many celebrities and politicians have created their own blogs, many bloggers may feel a sense of validation from the possibly growing legitimacy of blog-use.

But the internet has assisted more than just independent journalists.

“ I think the internet has helped [journalism.]” Michaelson said. “ A lot of people don’t pick up a paper, but they go online. A lot of major news organizations are relying on it.”

Indeed, news sites often ask their followers to send in their own stories electronically, to contribute to coverage, which may be a beacon of growing appreciation for citizen journalism.

Nassau students differed, through, on the subject of whether it was the citizen’s responsibility to report, particularly if they were a witness who might be one of few people prepared to report accurate facts. (For instance, a civilian who was present for a bank robbery or act of vandalism.)

“ It’s their obligation.” Samantha DeVictoria said.

Michaelson was not so quick to agree with her.

“ It depends on how sensitive the information is.”

A photographer himself, [Michaelson] also commented on the use of photography in citizen (photo)journalism.

“ It’s all in the story. You can twist any picture, and that can be a problem.”

Since cameras are everywhere, including most cell phones, many people use more than words to put stories out there.

But Michaelson picks up on one of several negatives that exist concerning citizen journalism.

“ Some of it is a lot more biased. It is harder to site sources. People can end up spewing a whole lot of untracked (expletive).”

One comment by DeVictoria added to a sense of disregard for citizen journalism.

“People don’t take what they have to say seriously. There is a big gap in between what is professional and what is not.”

Even a talented writer who may be accurate and non-biased may have his work looked over or frowned upon if he is not writing for a professional publication. But is this reasonable?

DeVictoria thinks a cue exists that professionals might take from citizen journalists, despite a widespread notion that their work is of lesser value.

“ Be more honest.”

With citizen journalism on the rise, but mixed feelings from professionals concerning it remaining the same, the two will simply have to learn to coexist.

-Amy Eiferman

How We Get Our Political Fix

We all prefer to get our news in our own unique way; however, for centuries newspapers and more recently television shows have been the only options, until now. Consumers are demanding to get only the news that interests them, in a format most convenient to them, and in doing so have found niches among television and the internet.

In just the last twenty years people have gone from relying on nightly news programs and newspapers, to having a nearly infinite source of news. The percentage of the American population that uses more traditional sources has sharply decreased in the last 15 years. According to a recent survey by The Pew Research Center For The People & The Press, the percentages of people who regularly watch local TV news, or regularly read a newspaper have decreased from 77% to 54% and 58% to 40% respectively between 1993 and 2006. During this time the percentage of people that read online news regularly has increased from less than 2% to 31%.

What makes this study especially eye-opening are the statistics between 2000 and 2006. The percentages of people regularly using each type of media have remained nearly stagnant. This includes local TV news, cable TV news, nightly network news, network morning news, radio, newspapers, the internet, etc. The masses have found their favorite sources of news and are sticking to them.

18-year-old Samantha DeVictoria explained that she reads Newsday, a New York City newspaper every morning. She goes on to say that she prefers the newspaper to television news because “I hate the commercials. You can ignore them in a newspaper.” A complaint that has pushed millions away from receiving their news from audio or video, where commercial interruptions have become more frequent.

Recently, there has been a great deal of news regarding whether those between 18 and 29 years of age are obtaining their news solely from satirical shows such as “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, and “Real Time” with Bill Maher. The Pew Research Center’s study asked this very question, and it turned out that only 11% of those ages 18 to 29 regularly watch “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. Ozzy Gezer, a 25-year-old student says that these shows are usually on “too late at night,” and that he prefers to watch a news network such as CNN to get his news before he goes to sleep.

Part of what pushes a person to one source of news instead of another is the important factor of time. Gezer explained that sometimes he does not have time in the morning to read a newspaper, so he goes to where he can quickly grasp what is happening in the world. “I wish I had time to read the paper during the week, but it’s not always possible” said David Rubinton, a middle-aged attorney. He then said, “Sometimes I listen to the radio while commuting, or I surf the internet on my phone while I eat lunch.” Reading a newspaper is a more active, but time-consuming way to get ones news, and thus, is not always feasible.

“TV is more for when I’m lazy” said Mr. Gezer. “It doesn’t make you think”. Television news programs, to many, has become a form of entertainment instead of a source of news. Which begs the question, who is really more informed?

Many say that the Internet is the best source of news. One can get up-to-the-minute news from anywhere in the world, and from a variety of sources. Niches has formed in a recent “Web 2.0” movement, in which new technologies are allowing people to be more involved in how they get their news.

A technology called RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) allows you to aggregate news from nearly any modern website into a single, easy to use service, such as Google Reader, that notifies the user instantly when new stories arrive. Gezer’s comment on the technology is a familiar one to anybody trying to promote the benefits of RSS, “Sounds good, but I’ve never heard of it”. The very nature of RSS prevents content providers, such as The New York Times, The Associated Press, or CNN from collecting the ad revenue that would be obtained from the user visiting the website itself. This has impeded the adoption of RSS, as it simply does not make sense for The New York Times to advertise the feature; although nearly every news website does offer RSS.

Other websites, such as and are trying to provide a social aspect to news gathering. Users at these sites are responsible for which stories reach the front page through a voting system. Also, you can follow specific users’ voting if their taste in news complements your own.

Mr. Gezer brought up an interesting point during our discussion about social news gathering, “People go into a bubble”. In other words, if you aren’t interested in world news, you could just not follow it at all when using the Internet. When watching a TV show, listening to the radio, or even reading a newspaper, it is a guarantee that you will come across nearly every type of news. This is not true of those who use RSS,, or even One can easily enter “into a bubble” and never again be informed about the genocide in Darfur, or global warming, or even the new celebrity sex video. Regardless of whether or not it benefits society, technology has allowed for the ultimate form of “news personalization”.

– Brian Rubinton