Joel Simon addresses the impact social media has had on journalism in his article, “What’s the Difference Between Activism and Journalism?” He quotes several journalists who claim that social media has caused lines to blur between activists and journalists because everyday people can now present their experiences for the world to see. Last week we face timed with Morgan Till, a producer for PBS’s NewsHour, who shared experiences that support Simon’s point. Till shared that one of the most significant changes he’s seen in his industry over the past 17 years he has been covering international stories is the heightened danger that journalists now face. One could argue that the blurred line between activists and journalists is one of the main reasons for this problem. As Simon addresses, governments associate activists as being against their cause, therefore, if journalists are mistaken for activists, or “citizen journalists,” they are seen as a threat and their lives could potentially be at risk when covering these foreign territories.
However, not all activists are extreme. An article published by an environmental activist in Hong Kong discusses the harmful impacts the smog has on the people of Hong Kong. The author gives facts and examples to support his case. But I would still not consider him a journalist. The article is very opinionated, and is posted in a blog forum rather than an official website.
In contrast, an article written in the South China Morning Post covers the same topic, but provides a graph showing air quality measurements in Hong Kong over the course of a week, something much more reliable than the opinion of one man.
There will always be value in having your work backed by a professional news organization. The media hold governments to a higher standard and hold their practice to a high standard as well. A citizen journalist’s work is usually not validated unless a larger news outlet has shared it. For this reason, there will always be a difference in activism and journalism.