Sunday, December 9, 2012
Citizen Journalism Vs. Fact Checking
Thanks to developing technology and media convergence, netizens who have nothing to do with journalism can be potential reporters. Words they say, videos they put online, and photos they post to their websites can have a great impact in influencing public opinion.
Take the disastrous earthquake that happened on March 11th, 2011 in the eastern part of Sendai, Japan, as a prime example. The earthquake not only provoked panic around the world but also tested on the accuracy of online information. A message branded with BBC World News first came out on the internet, and it was then widely spread through mobile phones. According to the news, the Japan government confirmed a nuclear leakage. The nuclear radiation will reach Philippines “in the afternoon” and it also affects Asia, especially coastal areas.
This message aroused intense reaction in Guangdong province, China, which faces the South China Sea. People were told by this so-called BBC News that they should get their whole bodies covered and avoid going outside if it rains. I don’t know whether people believe it or not, but based on my own observation, I will say that may happen. One of my classmates actually passed this message to nearly 30 acquaintances of her.
Moreover, a few unknown experts told the public that salt can be efficient to deal with nuclear radiation. Their words are quoted by many people online without reassuring their professionals and qualifications. Consequently, crowds were gathered outside stores to buy a lot of salt. People waited in a long queue and merchants saw opportunity for business from their passion for salt. One bag of salt is sold more than 30 Yuan in Guangzhou whereas people only needed to spend 2 Yuan on it.
Later, BBC News published a notice to deny the rumor. At the same time, it’s also the time for us to redefine the usage of social media and the role of citizen journalism. Thanks to the convenience and promptitude provided by instant communication online, the public can be better served with greater transparency. However, people need to be careful when facing information overload on social media, especially the accountability and credibility can hardly be verified.