6th Apr 2020
3 Min Read

World Changers - Explore the trend: ‘Rise of the Citizen Journalist’

Patrick Halkett
Patrick Halkett
IC & Engagement

This year, we released our first World Changers report, looking at the trends likely to impact on our world of work in the coming year and beyond, and what this means for organisations and their people.

In our ‘World Changers – Explore the trend’ interview series, senior writers Patrick Halkett and Elle Bradley-Cox caught up about the global surge of citizen journalism, and how resource-squeezed IC teams can harness the power of their internal storytellers.

Elle, what is citizen journalism and why are you such a passionate advocate for it?

Everyone has a story to tell. We don’t all have to be hacks looking to uncover the next big scoop, like we might have read about in books or seen on screen. All we need is the nose to discover a story and a desire to share it – that’s what citizen journalism is about.

With the technology most of us have access to these days, gathering information and sharing perspectives can come from outside the traditional channels of face to face or emails. It’s an exhilarating development for a journalist like me and one we can make a lot better use of in the internal communications profession.

How is this translating into workplaces and what are the benefits?

We’re seeing more clients make the most of colleagues’ desire to tell their stories. In my previous job, our employees were based all over the country. I spent so much time scouring social media for story leads because that’s where authentic, first-person perspectives came from.

It can be easy to sit in head office and become disconnected from the people you want to communicate with but having an engaged group of citizen journalists in your workforce will go a long way to prevent that.

One of my clients is great at this. They’re always on LinkedIn or Yammer, looking for ways to elevate local news into company-wide stories that mean something to a global audience and reinforce a feeling of pride and unity. They’re a real newshound and it makes the storytelling on the corporate channels so much more authentic because they’ve sniffed them out locally. It’s all about being curious – do that and you’ll reap the rewards.

And what are the risks?

It can become a free-for-all if you don’t manage your sources effectively. And that creates significant risk because it’s the reputation of the business that’s at stake – along with your position as the voice of the business in the internal communications team.

If you take just one thing from reading this article, I’d encourage you to fact check everything. It might seem obvious but if you’re cherry-picking stories from across an organisation with offices all over the world, accuracy and integrity are vital.

What examples of citizen journalism have you found particularly inspiring?

The Covid-19 pandemic makes frontline reporting a lot tougher, and a by-product of that has been some interesting examples of citizen journalism.

There’s a broad spectrum of stories, too. The Guardian Network shows that we can all contribute our point of view to one of the world’s most respected news outlets, but then there’s also the incredible videos of Italians on lockdown singing on their balconies that have lifted so many people’s hearts.

It just goes to show that it’s possible to find joy anywhere, no matter what the circumstances are. If anyone wants to chat about how to do this within your organisation, please get in touch.

Discover this and nine other World Changers topics in our 2020 World Changers report.

More articles in the ‘Rise of the Citizen Journalist‘ series:

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