The Power of the ‘Ordinary’ Person

Ordinary is a funny word to use, I find. As is ‘normal’, as I have a big interest in the philosophical questions of what is ‘normal’ and who decides what is ‘ordinary’? However, by ‘ordinary’ I mean the non-professional, the average citizen, or the industry nobody. I mean the person who happens to be walking by as something phenomenal happens and they pull out their camera phone, send it off to a news corporation that then sparks off a viral news story.

I first learnt the basics of Citizen Journalism at A-Level when studying Media Studies. My tutor, Stephen Jones (who I will always give credit to for getting me to university) presented an interesting class where the students took to social media sites to find out what the ‘average’ person was talking about. At that point we all saw the twitter trends about Bin Laden and we all found out about his death via Twitter then and there in that class due to the power of the ‘average’ person. It was ideal and it was a real-life case study that we were learning from and it couldn’t have been any more current. After that I never really focused on Citizen Journalism again as the curriculum moved on and it hasn’t been presented to me again in any other studies, however, I am very interested in the impact it has upon the media, journalism and PR industry.

Twitter is a very popular platform for people to voice their opinions on and the hash-tag trends allow people to be up-to-date with the most popular and currents stories. For example, Worldwide, ‘Syria’ is trending (Monday, 26th August 2013). I had heard briefly about the news of a chemical attack against Syria on the radio but found out more of the ‘facts’ via the twitter trend. I say ‘facts’ in inverted comas as there is always the possibility of the news being exaggerated or misinterpreted by the ‘ordinary’ person. And of course the tweets that form the hash-tag trend are mostly a matter of opinion and can’t be expected to be the truth. So when looking at how much of an impact citizen journalism has on the media industry we first have to answer the question: Do people trust citizen journalism or is it being by-passed as opinion? Also, how much more trustworthy are the ‘proper’ news channels compared to the ‘ordinary’ person when it comes to bias or influential news reporting?

I created a short survey using to find out what peoples thoughts were. Below are the results.


Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey and the results have confirmed what I had thought: The majority will side-step Citizen Journalism due to it being fed by opinion. It was interesting to see that a few people were ‘not sure’ whether they had contributed to Citizen Journalism as this could show a lack of understanding in the area.

I would love to hear your views or answers to the survey so please do feel free to leave a comment.