This May concludes my undergraduate career, as I go on to the “real world” and establish the foundations for my future. Coming into college almost four years ago, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study, and everyone around me was always supportive and assured me that I’d find what I was passionate about. I found my way to the Global Studies track — the interdisciplinary nature of the major was something that attracted me because I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. By my sophomore year a lot of my close friends were in the Journalism School either studying PR or reporting, two things that seemingly did not interest me as my preconceived notions of those two occupations were either being a celebrity publicist in LA or being a news anchor at a local TV station. While those are potential paths one can take after getting a degree in journalism, they are only two options in a world of creative and diverse opportunities. As I learn more about what journalism actually entails, I began to realize that this was a path I could see myself taking and also enjoying. One of my biggest fears is to be stuck in a boring, unfulfilling job, and by my junior year of college, I finally felt that I might have found something that could tick all the boxes in my list of requirements for the future. Now, the only problem was that it was just too late. I had only come to this realization a few weeks before I left for New Zealand for my spring semester. I found out that, luckily, I had time to complete a minor in Journalism and Mass Communication — I just needed to apply to the School of Journalism before the January deadline.
Fast-forward over a year later, and I’m wrapping up my minor in Mass Communication and Society and graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in two weeks’ time. As I graduate, my perception of what journalism and communications are could not be more different from when I came to this school four years ago. This year, I took classes in marketing, diversity in media and media management, but I feel that nothing has prepared my outlook on the field of journalism better than what I learned in Current Issues in Mass Media. In this biweekly class we explored the realities of what journalism is today, as it has taken on new forms and new roles in society over the last few decades. As technology and communications merge worlds and information can be accessed basically at our fingertips by a tap on a little handheld computer, the foundations of journalism and its effects on society are transforming, too.
The age of digital is here and there’s so much changing from the established ways things have been done in the past for many years. To me, the most significant issue shaping the future of journalism today is the existence and growth of citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is an outcome of this amazing evolution of technology and society, and it completely shifts how information is gathered and presented to the public. Citizen journalism is the process that is what makes Twitter so important and so successful. Now that we have tools to spread our words, our first-hand experiences, over the Internet to the millions of other users worldwide, we are less reliant and, honestly, a bit more skeptical of traditional news sources. It encompasses the essence of living life in the 21st century. Social media and the technologies we use on a day-to-day basis to keep in touch with the rest of the world have powers that even the biggest companies in journalism have yet to truly harness and utilize to their advantage.
The future of journalism is now being held less in the hands of those not educated in the field, and much more in those of the average citizen, hence the term’s name. I think this has an exciting potential to bridge cultural gaps that are aspects of life often left out from traditional sources of information that mainly focus on events and occurrences. Instead of a filtered view of a story, or even a people, in sharing their voices directly (or from smartphones). I think this will ultimately bring our world’s community closer to understanding each other’s differences and hopefully help to ease some of the cross-cultural tensions that fuel so many atrocious events.
Today’s citizen journalism serves as a space fostering freedom of speech that hasn’t been available to the average person until now, and it offers a progressive approach to tackling many of the issues some people have with traditional news sources — they feel information flowing directly from the people on the ground to the Internet are much more reliable sources that what is filtered through media companies and aired sometimes hours after something occurs. The successfulness of citizen journalism relies on social media managers and developers to organize these voices on sites like Twitter in ways that make voices heard without overwhelming viewers and while still making visible all sides to a story.
We, the younger generations, are the voices that will break news on the Internet long before news stations pick up on any incidents. This power placed back into the hands of the people will help restore democracies and benefit the functioning of society. There will always be a place for traditional news sources, like CNN or the BBC, for the time being. We are still reliant on such companies for a well-written synopsis of events once there occur and are made known by social media and the Internet. Once a system is designed that can organize and present citizen journalism in all encompassing and easy-to-understand ways, it will become a very powerful tool in story telling, journalism and communication and preservation of democracies.