Travel Journalism or Citizen Journalism or just travel blogging, is there a difference anymore?
There is no argument, citizen journalism is here. Though many mainstream print media outlets are still in denial, and dying because of it. Mainstream news agencies like CNN, BBC & The Guardian are embracing citizen journalism with open arms.
From Ireports, live blogging, twitter to syndication of just about anything we are all basically reporting any and; many aspects of everything around the globe.
Don’t break it down too much:
In travel people have often tried to categorize tourists in terms of how they travel:
- The Backpacker
- The Flashpacker
- The Tourpacker
- Couple travelers
- Solo travelers
- And so on …
While terms like flashpacker do annoy me as they are subjective, I do understand why they have come about. But, can the same be true of Journalism, Travel Blogging and Citizen Journalism, is there a difference in this day and age?
My take on what is Travel Journalism:
I won’t break it down much. But as a rough outline a person who writes about a subject with references to the world of travel, and of travel as an industry whilst keeping journalistic integrity at the forefront. Aka, quite broad.
Let’s tweak that a little. It’s not a person mouthing off about a hostel that charged extra after booking online.
It’s the person who contacts the online booker, gets their perspective and then the hostels. Afterwhile they will write, video, podcast etc their findings, and their side of the case if need be.
But, in this day and age of new media is Travel Journalism also producing content on world events that make the news … yes. The lines are blurring.
Citizen Journalism or Travel Blogging?
Citizen journalism seems to be getting diluted a lot these days. Either that or it’s still trying to find its feet. But, in my book citizen journalism usually comes from a non-professional “journalist” reporting on a story.
Much like a travel blogger. A non-professional journalist giving their version of events.
So, from here on out in this article, citizen journalism, and travel blogging, are one in the same.
What both journalism & travel blogging are not:
Can a travel blogger realistically report on a situation. Take the Redshirt protests in Bangkok in early 2010. Can a non-national traveler in Bangkok subjectively give an accurate assessment on the situation there?
On the ground most certainly they can. They can report that the redshirts are pouring blood on a certain street. State that someone just heard a gunshot. This is the new side of reporting, that traditional journalists have problems keeping up with.
Why? Traditional journalists need to get approval from editors and the like before anything gets published. Travel bloggers and citizen journalists do not.
Dangers of both Citizen/ Travel Blogging and Journalism today:
Traditional journalism is floundering and also making giant leaps. Quality articles like that of The New York Times online or Reuters are unleashing a bevy of editorial writings which is excellent. Even CNN’s reporting seems to have stepped up a notch compared to 10 years ago.
The problem here is that legal bureaucratic restrictions hamper modern-day journalism, along with the profit and loss column. Some would argue that this is a good thing, confirmation in news media is king. At, least that’s what their legal departments will tell them.
From the ashes:
The death of Photo Journalism seems to have already been called (source).
And, with all this; citizen journalism and blogging has found its niche. Mainstream media can report on the citizens of the world who are blogging, tweeting, podcasting, photographing and reporting on incidents they have access to the world over.
However, while mainstream media is hampered by paperwork, blogging is hampered not by workmanship (craft maybe), but by proof. One tweet by even a respected blogger in Bangkok about hearing a gunshot could set the media world on fire. And, therein lies the danger.
Case in point: Why we need people who can step up to the plate
Recently a Los Angeles documentary photographer Jonas Lara was arrested and charged with felony vandalism for photographing two graffiti artists at work (source). After more than 24 hours in jail, his equipment confiscated, his wife bailed him out. Since then charges have been dropped, and a court order was made for the return of his equipment.
Should he have been arrested for baring witness to a crime?
If so, then I fall on the side of you should then arrest every war or documentary photographer for witnessing murders, kidnapping, crime.
Maybe travel bloggers and citizen journalists will also need to start bearing witness to what they have described too? And, in some regards back it up, or pay the price.
My own view is
The world needs people to document what’s happening in it, good or bad.
Sadly it seems paranoia and bureaucracy is closing in on this.
Back to ethics & legalities:
Ethics in travel blogging and citizen journalism are becoming more subjective to the individual and not the industry. This is dangerous. Whilst one may have no problem photographing that Tibetan or Thai protester. The bottom line is, do you have the right?
Mainstream media will buy/take your story. So, you are now “the reporter”.
But, read the fine print, and all accountability is on you, not them.
Publicity for nothing
What’s more, who doesn’t like the spot light? If you were in Georgia or Kyrgyzstan and took a photograph of an army officer shooting an old man, and CNN asked for it. What if you say yes?
Yes, you are now an Ireporter, who just handed over a photograph that’s going to be distributed around the world and profited on for free. Meanwhile the freelance journalist next to you got release forms and just sold his to Getty for a whole lot more than free.
Meanwhile that old man’s son just contacted the news station broadcasting it with legal action for a breach of privacy, no consent etc. Hmm, any idea where you stand legally now?
So is there difference between citizen journalism, travel blogging and travel journalism?
Yes, is my answer. There still is a difference. But it may well be on the verge of changing.
It’s a yes and no thing, for now. With no one winning.
Social journalism is here. Like all new media it’s bumping and tumbling around the world right now. Some people like it, some hate it.
It’s a new age, and you’re witnessing history
Traditional media can’t always get the job done these days. A prime example of this is wikileaks.com. During the Iraq war Reuters lost several people in a firefight. They knew there was footage, the USA government refused to release it. Wikileaks got it, somehow, and published the video.
It’s a harrowing video. It proves a lot on both sides. To me, the most important thing is, that it got out. Is wikileaks.com a journalistic organisation? No. But what they did was tell the world a story no one else could, and if that’s not good journalism, I don’t know what is.
Can a social/citizen journalist/blogger do the same thing? Can they do it correctly,
And, if so, who does the responsibility lie with?
This is an additional editorial featuring travel related articles, view points, conversational topics and helpful resources based on experiences I’ve learned from my around the world journey