Many people are debating the definition of a citizen journalist. I have conducted research on online citizen journalism, which you can read in a few upcoming research journal articles and a book due out later this year, Web journalism: A new form of citizenship?. My definition of an online citizen journalist is “an individual who intends to publish information meant to benefit a community.” This means citizen journalists and traditional journalists fall under the definition of a journalist. Not every person is a journalist, but any citizen can become one.
I will dissect my definition:
It is a First Amendment right to publish, and any infringement on that right goes against the ideals of the First Amendment. “Freedom to publish means freedom for all and not for some. Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution” (“Associated Press v. United States,” 1945, p.20).
Intent to publish is important because the rights of journalists must be protected as they gather information, not only after content has been published.
Information should be intended to benefit, rather than harm individuals or the public.
A community can refer to a geographic area or refer to a group of people with similar interests. The move online is proving that many people use more than geography to define themselves. The duty of the journalist is to serve people – that includes people who make up the masses and people who belong to smaller subgroups.
*Associated Press v. United States, 57 (Supreme Court of the United States 1945).