n the night of the massacre that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo., 18-year-old Morgan Jones of Denver was up late playing a video game when he spied a Facebook update from his local news station reporting a possible shooting at a movie theater. Jones began a thread on the popular social-media news site Reddit that over the course of the night morphed into what many are describing as the most comprehensive timeline to emerge from the event, replete with minute-by-minute tweets from witnesses, reports from traditional media sources, and police scanner updates. Jones and his fellow Redditors also had some major scoops, unearthing the picture of alleged shooter James Holmes from the online dating site AdultFriendFinder.com, the first to show him with his distinctive red hair. Many commentators say Reddit's coverage exemplifies a new breed of journalism, though some, like CNN's Howard Kurtz, criticized the timeline as error-ridden. Is Reddit's style of citizen journalism the wave of the future?
Yes. Social media is changing journalism: Jones' coverage was the most valuable information available during the early hours after the massacre, so much so that "reporters began looking to the Reddit posts... to report what Jones had already aggregated," says Linda Sharps at The Stir. Yes, there were mistakes, but Jones corrected them as he went along in a way that was transparent for readers. (CNN contributors should hardly cast stones when it comes to mistakes, given that CNN "infamously miffed the Supreme Court ruling" on ObamaCare, reporting that it had been struck down.) "Media outlets should wake up and take note — because what Morgan Jones did last week just may be the future of journalism."
"Colorado shootings details reported best in early hours by teenager on Reddit"
Traditional media outlets should embrace the trend: Citizen journalism "may not replace the traditional journalism we're used to," but it could "bring additional benefits that mainstream journalism doesn't provide," says Mathew Ingram at GigaOm. Reddit's "crowdsourced newsroom" taps into an on-the-ground network that no single reporter, or even a team of reporters, could access. Traditional media outlets should "find as many ways of letting people contribute to journalism as possible," and take advantage of the fact that "journalism is everywhere" now.
"Learning from this week's crash course in citizen journalism"
Citizen journalism is sensationalist journalism on steroids: "Citizen journalism is doing more or less the exact same thing that traditional journalism has always done, except not as reliably or sustainably," says Michael Barthel at Salon. Citizen journalism is "really good at breaking news about shootings and war, the same 'if it bleeds, it leads' coverage that the media is frequently criticized for overemphasizing." For instance, "it's unclear what practical value" Holmes' picture has, but it's exactly the type of item scoop-obsessed journalists compete over. "The rush-to-coverage aspect of news is arguably more of an ill than a good… and it's hard to tell why doing the same thing only faster is a laudable improvement."
"Hold the Reddit hype"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- How Ukraine can fend off the Russians, in 7 simple steps
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- These stunning travel photos remind us that we're all just amateurs with iPhones
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
- Game of Thrones recap: 'The Lion and the Rose'
Subscribe to the Week