Citizen Journalism: Why Ferguson (and The World) Need More Bloggers Dedicated to News
Will truth prevail?
Four months later, we still do not exactly know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson…
Would things be different today if a blogger witnessed that tragic moment? What if someone had captured the confrontation on video and posted it to their blog…perhaps a speedy revelation of what really happened would have prevented all the additional pain, violence and destruction over the past months?
I think so.
The video would have gone viral for sure, and like a surveillance camera, the footage could have provided crucial evidence one way or the other. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen… That’s why the world needs more bloggers…bloggers interested in reporting fact-based news and sharing fact-based news.
Bloggers who report on news events are known as “Citizen Journalists.”
Citizen Journalism? What’s that?
Citizen journalism is when a blogger devotes their blogging to the coverage of news events. They write and publish articles on newsworthy stories that people want to know about.
Some stories are well covered (many other news outlets are also devoting time to the story), while other citizen journalists seek to report stories that get little or no attention.
A blogger who chooses this path does NOT need a degree from a journalism school. You can be a self taught citizen journalist. All you need to do is learn how to use your WordPress blog. Shooting video or photos is another helpful skill set for citizen journalists. This can be accomplished today with a cell phone.
We live in exciting times, and the “citizen journalism blog niche” might be perfect for you.
Here’s a definition of citizen journalism I like from a New York University journalism professor named Jay Rosen, “When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.”
Some folks just want to have a website that pulls together news from various sources, mainly other websites instead of actually writing the news articles themselves. This type of website is called a “news aggregator.”
One of the most successful examples of someone who has actually done this is a guy named Matt Drudge. I encourage you to check out his Wikipedia page if you’re interested.
Drudge did not attend college and worked in various jobs before starting his news reporting and aggregation website called the Drudge Report. He has been called a modern Thomas Paine and has seen his monetized website reward him financially (more on that in a moment) along with breaking news stories on his site that make a difference. In 1994, Drudge started out with an email newsletter to a handful of friends. By 1997, he had 85,000 subscribers. In 2003, his website reached 1 billion visitors.
What Matt Drudge did is possible for anyone using a WordPress blog. There are WordPress themes designed for news aggregation. (You can use your blog to aggregate any type of information, not just “news.”)
Matt Drudge is not the only citizen journalist who has made an impact. In his article for the how stuff works website titled What is citizen journalism? , writer Dave Roos shares a few other examples of some noteworthy “scoops” that citizen journalists have been responsible for over the past decade:
“In 2004, a team of conservative bloggers exposed fraudulent documents used in a 60 Minutes story about President George W. Bush’s military service. The controversy known as Rathergate led to the firing of several CBS employees and tarnished the reputation of respected journalist Dan Rather, who left the network in 2006. Photos and videos shot by eyewitnesses during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 London Tube bombings and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings also provided vivid imagery that brought those stories home.”
These are all good examples of how the “mainstream news” now depends on citizen journalists and these examples only scratch the surface to how much citizen journalism now contributes to our total news consumption.
There’s plenty of room for you in this blog niche.
Are you interested in becoming a citizen journalist? Cool. You’re going to need a blog first.
Because of modern media technology, including media-sharing websites and social media, you can now use your cell phone to report breaking news faster than many mainstream media sources.
Here are dozens of great examples of citizen journalists making a difference that are aggregated together thanks to Mashable (listed under 117 Recent Stories).
How to Monetize Your Citizen Journalism Website
Going back to Matt Drudge, his website the Drudge Report is one of the biggest examples of a “news aggregator” website that also mixes in occasional citizen journalism. As his traffic grew, he was (and still is) able to earn significant income by using banner advertising. Here is a screenshot of his website (the site is actually just one long home page filled with links.) You can see here how he has a banner ad at the top.
According to a 2003 article on the CNN Money website called The Secrets of Drudge Inc. How to Set Up a Round-the-Clock News Site On a Shoestring, Bring In $3,500 a Day, And Still Have Time to Lounge On the Beach, Matt Drudge started at zero and figured out how to run “the most efficient website on the web” that earned himself and one other helper $400,000 each per year. Today he earns over one million dollars per year while operating his online empire entirely from home. He has no need to leave his house to run his blog business, although his website success enabled Matt to expand his personal brand with a radio, tv and book deal.
All of those side projects have come and gone, yet Matt continues to run the Drudge Report from his home in Miami with minimal expenses and a lot of profit.
Additional Ways to Monetize a Citizen Journalism Blog
Although advertising (like Google AdSense) seems to be the best fit for a monetized citizen journalist website, there are some other ways to monetize a news aggregation website. Check out these possibilities if interested…
- Subscriptions or pay-as-you-go
- Freemium, a combo of free and paid news access
- Affiliate marketing
Matt Drudge went from store clerk to online entrepreneur. He had an idea, and he figured out how to make his idea highly successful.
Are You the Next Matt Drudge?
I admire what Matt Drudge has accomplished over the years. His story is so amazing. I HAD to share it with you.
I’ve also got butterflies in my stomach as I near completion of this article, because I’m convinced that SOMEONE READING THIS IS GOING TO BE EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL WITH THEIR NEWS BLOG THAN MATT DRUDGE.
Are you interested in citizen journalism? Maybe you’re already doing it… Share with us in the comments what you’re doing as a citizen journalist or an aspiring citizen journalism website owner, or any questions.
Citizen journalism to me is one of the most important of all the blog niches out there. I leave you with this final thought…
Photo: Citizen Journalism (Modified) CC BY-SA 2.0