Oct 12

Citizen journalism and mainstream media

A matter of ethics and aesthetics

New media activism is also called tactical media for some scholars (for example, Garcia and Lovink). In their words “tactical media do not just report events, as they are never impartial they always participate and it is this that more than anything separates them from mainstream media”. (Garcia & Lovink)

This approach somehow challenges Lievrouw (2011), who says that participatory journalism projects employ the ethics and practices of professional new reporting and editorial opinion to cover communities, stories, and points of view that are neglected by the mainstream press. (Lievrouw, 2011, pp. 19-20)

One can say that impartiality and objectivity are values on the ground of journalism, in theory and practice. And obviously, when citizen journalists employ new media tools and channels to broadcast news and information on facts, situations, and points of views that are neglected from the mainstream media, they barely give voice to the spokespersons of the power it has been fight against. And, in my personal opinion, I do not think they should, as the representatives of power have enough space to express their ideology and discourses within traditional, mass media. I think media activists speaking on behalf of underprivileged, marginalized social groups have their own right to convey messages from their point of view. I just think this ought to be clear for everybody who is reading or watching it.

So, I tend to agree more with Garcia and Lovink, when they states that there is a distinctive tactical ethic and aesthetic. The tactical media ethic and aesthetic, in my opinion, are quite different from the ethic and aesthetic of professional mainstream journalism.
For instance, Jurrat in her article Mapping Digital Media: Citizen Journalism and the Internet, published on Media Development says that “citizen journalists have become regular contributors to mainstream new through digital advances, providing information and images. (…) On sites like CNN iReport, editorial gatekeeping is left to the audience: uploaded content will be published unedited as long as it is considered news (as distinct from advertising, for example) and respects principles of taste and decency.

However, take a video produced by Collective Mosireen, a non-profit Egyptian media centre born out of the explosion of citizen journalism and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution, for example, the Maspero Massacre. Many of us will agree that its strong images are undeniable nasty, though, in my personal opinion the tragedy that it reports has to be broadcast, it is a story that needs to be told.

Nevertheless, one could say that this nastiness is part of their aesthetic in order to raise awareness among their people. They want to shock. It is a guerrilla strategy. So, would CNN use these images? I am skeptical about that given that I do not believe such images meet their principles of taste and decency. So, if they use it, they will probably edit it, and thus, the discourse constructed by the Mosireen media activists would lose power.

Concluding, I think there are constraints and issues on the relationship between citizen journalism and traditional media. In my opinion,  just like in some failed marriages, there are irreconcilable differences between them.

By Cristina Souza


Garcia, David & Lovink, Geert. The ABC of Tactical Media / The DEF of Tactical Media Retrieved October 17, 2012 from

Jurrat, Nadine. Mapping Digital media: Citizen Journalism and the Internet Retrieved October 2, 2012 from http://www.comminit.com/media-development/content/mapping-digital-media-citizen-journalism-and-internet

Oct 12

Some words on new media activism

In a global context marked by globalization and neo-liberalism hegemony, social movements have found new media as a powerful mean of counter-discourse production and to ignite actions and interventions in society.

This is due to mainstream media is greatly connected with  those interests social movements fight against, thus the latter usually do not have their voice heard by mainstream media nor their viewpoints taken in account.

According to Cammaerts (2007) activism refers to the ability to act and make or change history. Thus, “agency and the makeability of society is central to any tentative definition of activism” in his words. He also quotes another definition of activism from Wikipedia stressing the “intentional action to bring about social or political change” (Cammaerts, 2007, p. 217).

In this regard, it is interesting to note that, while quoting Wikipedia might be criticized by orthodox scholars, when it comes to a literature on new media activism is highly appropriate as Wikipedia in its own right is an example of new media activism which promotes the acknowledge of commons knowledge employing new media.

If mass media have been employed by mainstream political institutions since the twentieth century, we can say that from the last decade of this century onwards, new media have been used mostly for citizen and activist’s initiatives in order to enhance social justice all around the world, in a mode of resistance, production of discourse, strengthening of identities of communities, among other aims.

Atton (2004) quoted by Lievrouw (2011, p. 18) states “that alternative media have sought to be participatory, emancipator, non-commercial, authentic (i.e., faithful to a community’s point of view or experience), and anti-institutional. They combine both ‘creative expression and social responsibility’ in a way that departs from most mainstream media.”

However, it is important to emphasize that using new media does not exclude the use of mass media by social movements and activists when they have means for it. Of course, the combination of both communications is the ideal strategy of intervention in order to pursue and achieve lasting social changes.

In fact, lately we have witnessed powerful mainstream mass media organizations broadcasting contents produced by alternative media or activists using new media.

In addition, we believe that when it comes to activism, it is also crucial the employment of both online and offline media, as both strategies combined can better enhance the public engagement with the social cause, because people are everywhere and choose different modes of communication according to their social context, interests, lifestyles, and needs.

Another fundamental shift on the understanding about communication and its uses by activists is that “the nature of media activism projects is actions in their own right, rather than communication about other “real” actions, as Lievrouw (2011, p. 18) points out.

Activist new media project are categorized in five genres by Lievrouw (2011, p. 19-20): culture jamming, alternative computing, participatory journalism, mediated mobilization, and commons knowledge.

For her, culture jamming borrows, comments on, and subvert elements from popular culture (entertainment, advertising, art, music, literature, cinema and so on).

Alternative computing critiques and reconfigures the infrastructure of information and communication technologies.

Participatory/citizen journalism projects employ the ethics and practices of professional news reporting and editorial opinion to cover communities, stories, and points of view that are neglected by the mainstream press.

Mediated mobilization extends and activates the power of “live”, local social relations and organizing.

Commons knowledge projects reorganize and categorize information in ways that can challenge or reframe established, expert knowledge classifications of mainstream cultural institutions and disciplines.


By Cristina F. Souza


Lievrouw, Leah (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Oxford: Polity Press

Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier N. (eds) (2007) Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. Bristol: Intellect.