Journalism of the People, by the People, for the People

Citizen journalism has become an increasingly popular source of information in society today. Many events that have taken place in the world have been covered by regular people, with regular phone cameras, and simple intentions of getting the word out. On January 15, 2009, Jim Hanrahan or “Manolantern” published a tweet that would light a news wildfire. The tweet read, “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson riv in manhattan” (1). And just like that, Hanrahan became a citizen journalist who documented a monumental moment in history and spread this vital information for the world to see.

Citizen journalism has been enabled by the development and growth of online social networks, which allow people to communicate across divides of communities, countries and often authoritarian government news policies (2). Anyone who chooses to send out a message can reach thousands, even millions of people. Social networks have allowed citizen journalism to gain a following and credibility, as regular citizens are becoming some of the first live reporters on a scene through a simple tweet, youtube video, or Facebook Live stream.

Citizen journalists have been instrumental in covering many events in recent history. One grim situation where citizen journalists have been essential is the conflict in Syria. Citizen journalists are risking their lives to share what is happening in Aleppo, and around 70 of these people have been killed in the process of reporting to date (3). Since the government has prevented international media from accessing the events happening in Syria, citizens have taken the initiative to document the events themselves. Without their visual documentation and informative reports, the world would not know what is going on.

Because there are so many dangers in reporting from the ground in Syria, the foreign press sends fewer reporters to capture the events. As a result, professional news sources have worked to collaborate with citizen journalists and assist them in reaching as many people across the world as possible (4). Citizen journalists can send videos, images and reports to those professional news sources. Below is a video which captures the life of one citizen journalist working to record events in Syria.

The rise of citizen journalism is often questioned due to its contrast with traditional journalism. However, its popularity has allowed more and more people to make a difference and be heard simply by using a smartphone or 140-character tweet. Professional news corporations are collaborating with and working off of information provided by citizens more and more (2). As Melissa Wall writes in her research article on citizen journalism, “the act of ordinary people creating media content that includes information (“’news”) has become a commonly accepted practice around the world, viewed by millions as alternative, authentic news or even simply as an everyday practice” (2). Citizen journalism has given power and strength to the voices that need it most.



Snap It


Snapchat. The social media site most love to hate and hate to love. This instant form of sharing photos is used more and more frequently as time goes on as the app changes and develops. When Snapchat was first produced in 2011, it was known as the social media platform one could be a part of in order to send a photo that would disappear in seconds and never be seen again. Studies have shown that Snapchat gives people more enjoyable, positive interactions than other social networking sites (1). Despite this fact,  my parents would always ask me, “What is the point of Snapchat if the photo disappears?” as I took an ugly selfie and sent it off to my friends. I would tell them it was just a fun way to send pictures and messages to friends, and that it was not meant for serious photos that I wanted to last. However, this has changed. Even my parents now appreciate the fun, easy communication that Snapchat provides. In a study done on the effects of Snapchat on interpersonal relationships in young adults, researchers discovered that the social media platform allows for “…more congruent communication within young adult interpersonal relationships” (2). Snapchat encourages casual, easy conversations which tend to be a commonly liked communication technique. It also encourages a preservation of the small moments– no photo is too insignificant to post on Snapchat.

Snapchat photos last longer than a “snap” now, making the name slightly not representative of its true characteristics. Snapchat now allows users to take screenshots of the photos that they receive. Users can also make “stories” of their photos which are posted for 24 hours for friends to see. The app even allows users to save “memories” and store the photos they take forever in a camera roll. Snapchat has evolved into a photo log, news source, travel diary, and even more. It gives users the ability to capture the small moments that show true personality, values, and interests, unlike other social media networks in which people often work toward creating an image for themselves.

I highly enjoy Snapchat because of its quick  form of “face-to-face” communication and that it allows me to share where I am with family and friends easily. During my time abroad, I send many snapchats to my friends and family to update them on where I am traveling and what I am doing there. I have saved many of my snapchat photos and stories in order to keep a log of the sights I see during my travels and in Barcelona. Here are some examples of the photos I took on Snapchat that have turned into permanent photos on my phone:

I have saved these photos, along with many others. They provide me with a travel log of the small moments I have abroad– the ones I will most easily forget but will most want to remember.


  1. BAYER, Joseph B., et al. Sharing the small moments: ephemeral social interaction on Snapchat. Information, Communication & Society, 2016, vol. 19, no 7, p. 956-977.
  2. VATERLAUS, J. Mitchell, et al. “Snapchat is more personal”: An exploratory study on Snapchat behaviors and young adult interpersonal relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 2016, vol. 62, p. 594-601.


Far from home and yet not far at all

When I first started preparing for my semester abroad in Barcelona, I couldn’t help but focus on two things– how far away I was about to be and how long I was about to be away. About 7,000km from home for about 4 months. As I packed and collected everything I would need for my time abroad, I noticed the planning and efficiency that had to go into it since I no longer had the comfort of a single item being shipped to me if I forgot it. I would not be able to see my family and friends from home over breaks– I would only be able to see them over FaceTime. I knew that any routine I had gotten used to would be useless and I would have a new routine that would eventually become a new normal to me.

When I got to Barcelona, these thoughts of great distance and long amounts of time apart from the people and things I was used to slipped away. I actually didn’t feel that far away and the span of 4 months didn’t seem too long at all. I wondered why this was and then I realized a huge part of it– it was because of the social networks I was involved with and the power they have to make me feel like I am always with the people I know and love no matter how far or how long I am away. The pictures that are posted on Facebook and Instagram keep my friends and family updated on my life in Spain. There is not a feeling of absolute cluelessness as to what is going on at home, or what is happening with me across the ocean since photos keep everyone informed and spark conversation as if the experiences captured in the pictures were almost felt together.

Studies show that about “…one-half of pleasure travelers post travel pictures on social networking sites” (1). I am definitely part of this one half. I post pictures of the sights I am seeing, food I am eating, and people I am spending time with. My sister at home posts pictures of her senior activities in high school, formal dances, and friends. My friends at home or in other countries studying abroad post pictures of their travels in a similar way to me. Because of all these postings and pictures, I feel much closer to the people who are physically miles and miles away since they can be seen inches away from my face on social networking sites. It is comforting when I talk to my friends and family on the phone or over FaceTime and we can ask each other about specific events or people or places we saw on social networking sites.

Not only has social networking allowed me to feel more connected to the people and places that are far away, it has also given me guidance on my experience abroad. People who have already gone abroad still have the photos they posted on their Facebook profiles. Researchers have noticed how “…images might influence the travel decisions of those who view the photos” (2). During my time abroad, I am able to look at the photos from the places they visited and loved and make sure to travel to them myself. For example, here is one of the Instagram accounts I have looked at with my friends in order to gain some Barcelona food inspiration: Barcelona Food Experience.

Social networking sites and travel are becoming more connected as they become a way to share moments despite a separation of distance and time, as well as a source of travel advice.


  1. Boley, B. Bynum, Vincent P. Magnini, and Tracy L. Tuten. “Social media picture posting and souvenir purchasing behavior: Some initial findings.” Tourism Management 37 (2013): 27-30.

  2. White, Leanne. “Facebook, friends and photos: A snapshot into social networking.” Tourism Informatics: Visual Travel Recommender Systems, Social Communities, and User Interface Design, Information Science Reference, USA (2009): 115.