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Knight Center


Citizen journalists use cell phones, social media to cover Occupy Wall Street protests

Complaining that the mainstream media has been "silent" when it comes to news coverage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and marches, protesters have turned to citizen journalism and social media to make sure the news gets out.

"How was the word spread? By protesters tweeting and blogging about the happenings on their phones, that's how," wrote Harmon Leon for Know Your Cell.

The online citizen journalism site Citizenside, which is based on the idea that "nobody is a better expert than the people who are actually there, on the site, living and breathing this story every day," is publishing videos, photos and other eyewitness accounts from people on the ground at the protests to "inform people and to make some sort of meaningful difference," Philip Trippenbach, editor-in-chief of Citizenside, told the Editorsweblog.

On Saturday, Oct. 1, when protesters took over the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan's Union Square and police responded by using Tasers and mace and arresting people, citizen journalism was a "key factor in showing exactly what happened. Participants and observers, armed with cell phone cameras, captured footage of the arrests and quickly uploaded it to YouTube," reported the Huffington Post.

Wanting to take further advantage of on-the-ground citizen voices, at the end of each of its protest stories, the Huffington Post is calling for participants of any Occupy Wall Street events throughout the country to send in their "photos, links to videos or first-hand accounts of what you've seen for possible inclusion in The Huffington Posts's coverage."

The San Francisco Chronicle published a list of tips for citizen journalists covering the protests, such as keep videos short, remember your battery life, keep up on your Twitter feed, don't use expensive equipment, and put coverage first before any political agenda.

With money raised through the online crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, two independent journalists from New York debuted on Saturday, Oct. 1, a first run of 50,000 copies of "The Occupied Wall Street Journal," an alternative newspaper distributed as part of the protest called Occupy Wall Street, reported The New York Times.

Meanwhile, at the end of September, a journalist who was reporting on citizen journalists' coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, was arrested right "alongside citizen journalists," giving him a "taste of the risks these non-professionals take," according to Salon. MetroFocus reporter John Farley spent eight hours in jail, despite having told police he was with the press, Farley wrote in a personal account of his arrest.

As more people are doing the work of journalists because of all of the new technology, it’s harder and harder to tell who’s a reporter and what does that mean for the future of reporting,” Farley said.

As Empowered News pointed out, obtaining New York Police Department press passes to cover the protests is problematic, when just who is a journalist is up for question.

A "people-powered movement for democracy" inspired by the Egyptian protests, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, originally proposed by the anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters, is aimed at protesting against economic and social inequalities, corporate greed, and the inability of the government to adequately address the global financial crisis.

Other Related Headlines:
» The New York Times (Coverage grows for Wall Street protest)


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