How to train yourself as a citizen journalist
Citizen journalism has existed since the 1800s when the United States was in its infancy. Citizens printed their own pamphlets to distribute newsworthy and sensitive topics before newspapers and the postal service made news distribution easy. Citizen journalists wrote letters to the editors of newspapers and produced newsletters within their communities.
As technology advanced over the years, news traveled over telegraphs, telephones, and television in addition to print media.
In 1962 with the launch of the Telstar communications satellite, instant news from around the globe made its appearance. Meanwhile, citizens continued to participate in breaking news stories. The Kennedy assassination and the London bombings produced news images with ordinary citizens capturing images on their video recorders. These images are priceless today.
Training to become a citizen journalist is to do what people have been doing for centuries. It is making use of current technology to become a participating member of the news media. With the establishment of the Internet, digital cameras, camcorders, photo and video phones, the average citizen is capable of capturing news worthy events as they go about their everyday business.
Step one: Use your tools
Use your writing skill and the technology you have at hand to create, correct, argue a point of view, research and distribute news. Use the Internet, digital or phone cameras and your writing skills to participate in writing and reporting news. If you don’t know how to use a certain tool, now is the best time to learn. The key word in citizen journalism is participation!
Step two: Distribute your news globally.
The news remained a commodity of mainstream publishers until the Internet became available to wide audiences in the mid 1990s, but it was after the 9/11 tragedies in NYC (2001) that citizens began to participate in the news on a larger scale. They began to add videos, pictures and commentary on personal web pages. They became the news makers.
Today, the Internet community is filled with weblogs, commonly called blogs. Professional journalists administer some blogs, but the vast majority are citizen journalists. In addition online writing sites that allow you to build a portfolio offer a venue for the training and establishment of your citizen journalism skills.
*Create a blog to distribute your news and content. There are a number of free blogs available on the Internet. Blogs can establish your Internet presence on the web and validate your news reporting in about six months time. If you choose to blog, keep the content fresh and relevant and add images for visual enhancement.
*Write for a reputable online site such as writter.com or Associated Content. Your opinions and information stand as your participation in news and commentary. You can use your portfolio to compete for freelance writing jobs. If you’re competent with a digital camera, video, or other computer technology you’ve increased your marketability.
Once you’ve established your Internet blog, you will want to maximize your SEO and write titles that compel your audience to come and read your commentary. You’ll also learn to drive traffic to your blog or your online portfolio. Search the Internet to learn how to find sites that will allow you to post your URL free and visit and comment on other people’s work or blogs.
Use the Internet to find the knowledge you need to grow within your community and use self-guides that allow you to develop your skills and form partnerships with a number of other writers. Networking and use of social websites like MySpace and Facebook can help bring opportunities to your door.
Opportunities abound for citizen journalists especially now that some newspapers hire local citizens to produce community news. Starting small doesn’t mean that you have to stay small.
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