It used to be, only the professionals published. Only the professionals called the shots. They decided what was going to be breaking news, and what was simply, insignificant. But as time progressed, and new technologies kicked in, amateurs, regular people like you and I, decided that they want in.
In his article “Everyone is a Media Outlet”, Clay Shirky elaborates on how the spread of literacy was a process of mass amateurization, instead of mass professionalization. Shirky explains how in the past, it was difficult to “move words, images and sounds from creator to consumer "[i]. Then media businesses, the professionals, stepped in with a solution, and in return, they got to control the media. However, nowadays, production, reproduction and distribution, are no longer major problems. As a result, the professionals are no longer in complete control, everyone is; well sort of.
When the web came along, and sites like Twitter, Facebook and Blogspot hit the market, professionals knew they were in for a rude awakening.“The Web didn’t introduce a new competitor into the old ecosystem… the Web created a new ecosystem.”[ii] The difference between the newspaper and the Web is that, newspaper journalists are, well, cheap. If it’s not in the newspaper, it was too expensive to print. On the other hand however, when it comes to the Web, as Shirky clearly put it, amateurs don’t have to ask “Why publish this?” rather, “Why not?”.
The day the computer was invented and the internet was provided, was the day amateurs became journalists. Shirky, in his article, quotes the Oxford Dictionary who defines a journalist as a “person who writes for newspapers or magazines, or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.”[iii] It use to be, not everyone can be a journalist, and hence, not everyone had the journalistic privileges. However, it is no longer like that. Today, anyone in the world can publish something at any time, making them a journalist. But the big question is, “how should we alter journalistic privilege to fit that new reality?”, or the even bigger question, “who is a journalist?” . [iv]
When I heard about the young Jewish boy who went missing, I immediately put my Facebook status as “PLEASE LOOK FOR LIEBY!”, and I placed a picture of him right beside it. Did that make me a journalist? I was probably speaking out to just as many people as a professional would.
I believe, in the future, amateurs will only gain more control, while professionals quickly lose their power. I think we will have to redefine a journalist, a photographer as well as many other professions. As Shirky stated, “It has already happened. In many ways, the rise of group-forming networks is best viewed not as an invention but as an event, a thing that has happened in the world and can’t be undone.” [v] There will probably be chaos and tension up ahead, just like the printing press brought along, but eventually, like everything else, it’ll come to an end.