The concept of Citizen Journalism is an expanding and growing phenomena channeled by the increasing use of social media and the internet around the globe. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube (to name but a few) allow it’s users to share and create information that may not be recorded by professional journalists and reporters. While it is certainly a growing phenomena is is not entirely new. Since the invention of photography in the late 18oos and the creation of video recording devices people have had the ability to capture news worthy, and important pieces of information and share it with the globe. These videos shot by amateur videographers such as the shooting of John F Kennedy, the 9/11 epidemic, and, an aspect of U.S. social debate still relevant today, the beating of Rodney King by police in 1991 play a major part in reporting the real world around us not reported upon by professionals.
Viewing the video of the beating of Rodney King in contemporary times we can see this as the beginning of modern video surveillance contributed by the general public, something that will be seen time and again in terms of documenting hate crimes and police beatings of people of colour. The video of the beating of King was videoed by George Holliday, a man who encourages the use of amateur videography and citizen journalism in documenting important and even unlawful and shocking events like the one he witnessed. The Holliday video, when rejected by police, was sent to KTLA television, and while parts of the video were edited, it went viral around national news stations in America and is seen to be one of the first videos used by news channels by an ordinary citizen.
The video also marked the beginning of citizen journalism in the fight against police brutality and eventually the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. The movement began in 2012 after the murder of a 17 year old, Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman and since then the recording and documenting of racist crimes against black men and women have increased significantly with just cause.
The Black Lives Movement not only have used videography to record these events and unjust, racist treatment but also use social media, especially Facebook and Twitter to spread these events. The first case in which I noticed the Black Lives hashtag and the use of citizen journalism on the Internet was the shooting of Michael Brown, resulting in his death, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. This case went viral on social media and many protests and marches were organised as a result. The slogan ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ also circulated as a result of social media.
These cases and the many that were in between and followed the Brown and King cases relied heavily on social media and citizen journalism to record not only the events themselves but the aftermath, the protests and the reactions of those involved and effected by these crimes and deaths. It shows the importance of social media in our society and how the ordinary citizen can change social and political matters and bring them to the fore of society.
Holliday, George. ‘Rodney King (1991)’. Youtube, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE0Uua7jnSA