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Citizen journalism in Britain climbing up the media ladder

LONDON: Videos shot in smoke-filled, bombed-out London underground trains, photos of body-strewn roads – the July 7 bombings on London’s transport system brought the arrival of a new advance guard of amateur reporters to Britain.

Media commentators described it as a sea-change in journalism as mobile phone photographers, text messagers and bloggers dominated initial coverage of the bombings that claimed lives of 52 commuters. But while those momentous events raised public awareness of how eyewitness-generated content can dominate the the mainstream media’s initial coverage of a big story, citizen journalism is still trying to establish itself in Britain, analysts said.

"It hasn’t got a proper foothold here yet – citizen journalism hasn’t carved out a niche for itself like in the United States," Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at City University in London and former editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper, said.

But more and more news reports in the "old media" have taken their lead from submissions by ordinary citizens and a new wave of political bloggers is challenging Britain’s media commentators. "It helps us tell the story truthfully and accurately," said BBC Interactivity Editor Vicky Taylor, referring to the BBC’s use of images sent in by witnesses of the London bombings.

Mainstream media owners also have rushed to tap into the phenomenon by setting up blogs written by their own journalists. But unlike in the United States, where bloggers have claimed credit for major political upsets, including the resignations of broadcaster Dan Rather and Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, Britain’s newspapers remain in charge for now of exposing the misdemeanours of public figures and institutions.

"The citizen journalist here is a snapper who happens to be passing somewhere where something is going on," Greenslade said. "What we haven’t developed yet is the citizen journalist who goes out and writes and reports." Like citizen journalism, blogging has received a lot of coverage in the media. Globally, there has been a massive growth of web logs, or personal online journals.

According to Technorati, a search engine for blogs, a new blog is created every second of every day. But in Britain, despite a rapid uptake in broadband Internet connections, only two per cent of Internet users publish a blog, a recent survey by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) found, while another study said most bloggers quit after three months. The BMRB also found that only 10 per cent, around 2.8 million people, of UK Internet users read blogs.

The Press Gazette, a magazine dedicated to UK journalism, is leading the charge in honouring the best in citizen journalism for the first time with its Citizen Journalism Awards, to be announced on July 14. Among the entries are photographs and films of a local pub siege and of a local teenager being threatened by a knife-wielding man.

Date posted: April 29, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 60