Citizen Journalists Filling Gaps

By Rachel Fredman

You may not know the name Darnella Frazier but you will never forget her video.

Frazier, a 17-year-old student from Minneapolis, can be credited with recording what may become the single biggest news event this year which ignited a national dialogue about race relations in the United States. Frazier recorded George Floyd as he gasped for air and struggled to breathe under the knee of a policeman.

She is just one example of what is being called a citizen journalist.

As many news organizations across the country are shedding professional staff, average citizens have stepped up to fill the void.

“We've seen the demise of so many papers, tens of thousands of jobs in journalism disappear, said Rachel Gans-Boriskin, assistant professor of practice at Simmons University.

“Boston is one of the few cities that has two papers, and even still, the Herald is in financial distress, and The Globe doesn't cover international news in the same way it used to,” she said.

According to Gans-Boriskin, the decrease in professional journalists has left gaps for everyday people to fill. She said citizen journalists are documenting demonstrations and police interactions using social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to share their insight.

She believes the lack of reporters and editors has led to a decrease in fact-checking, placing responsibility on the reader and viewer to do their own research to detect and eliminate any bias that may exist.

“It seems to me that we are drowning in misinformation and that the skill that everyone needs to have when they graduate college...is that ability to distinguish fact from fiction, and to evaluate that,” she said.

However, separating fact from fiction may be easier said than done.

“We are instinctively willing to fact check things with which we disagree so, I say do a gut check. If it feels right in your gut, that's when you fact check it because that's what we've got to overcome: our own biases.”

Citizen journalism is more likely to include biases because citizens are not confronted with the same executive pressures as journalists. The lack of fact-checking has propelled polarization within the country and has led to more biased sources, she said.

With citizen journalism gaining popularity, it is more important than ever to fact check what you read, she said.

“When we move away from those official sources we start hearing things, the voices that were silenced, and so we get more voices, a new perspective but we have to be vigilant about making sure that the information is solid,” she said.

Created By
Rachel Fredman


Created with images by Clay Banks - "Man walks in front of a Black Lives Matter flag (IG: @clay.banks)" • Julian Wan - "A young woman with a sign at the Cincinnati #BlackLivesMatter public demonstration protest."