TikTok journalists

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A sketch of a phone screen with a mic app. A finger is about to press on the mic.
Smartphones, doing everything from cat memes to saving democracies. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay and Wallusy via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

Groundbreaking advancements in accessible citizen journalism 

In 1997, the Committee of Concerned Journalists began a national conversation to identify the principles that underpin journalism. After completing four years of research, including 20 international public forums and a national survey of journalists, the group released a Statement of Shared Purpose that identified nine principles of journalism.  

These include the obligation to truth, priority to citizens, its essence as a discipline of verification, independence from issues covered, to serve as an independent monitor of power, to provide a forum for public criticism and compromise, to strive to make “the significant” interesting and relevant, to keep news comprehensive, and that practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience. At the time that the Committee established these principles, almost a decade ago, new inventions in news sharing like Instagram and TikTok had not been yet created. Today there is much conjecture on the role of social media in journalism, particularly TikTok. 

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism Digital News report 2022, Facebook is the most-used social network for news. However, Facebook users are more likely to say they seetoo much news as compared to other platforms. The study identified TikTok as the fastest-growing source of news, largely due to the fact that smart phones are the number one-way people access the news. 

Recently, official news outlets have responded to these trends by creating TikTok accounts to post shorter reports on issues. However, there has also been an increase in unofficial reporters of news. In that, your everyday people concerned with the state of the world have taken on reporting on issues that matter to them. There has been some criticism to this approach, particularly around what counts as journalism and what makes a journalist a journalist.  

As Emma Bently, who is a digital camera journalist, explains, “The best journalistic content teaches viewers something without them even realising it.” Bently also offers the following advice for those using the platform: “Talk to TikTok users to find out what news they want, and how they want to get it.” Most critics are concerned with the verification process of reporting, given that TikTok journalists are unattached to an official news outlet. This is a fair concern, but one that is easily overcome by open and honest sourcing of information.  

According to Laura Garcia, who attended the Internal Symposium of Online Journalism, “Journalism is about people, right, and that means that we need to understand the communities that we write about and that we want to get our journalism to regardless of where they live, whether that is Facebook groups…or a community that trades information on TikTok.” According to Garcia, TikTok challenges us to “to think about storytelling beyond just print. How do we tell stories across screens? How do we do transmedia storytelling, where your TikTok compliments your print story or your TV news?” However, it also challenges us to think about how and who we share and receive information from.  

TikTok journalism might be best understood as an extension of citizen journalism, which describes the practice of journalism conducted by non-professionals who disseminate information using platforms available to them. Citizen journalism has cemented its importance over recent years, especially in disaster zones where those effected have taken up reporting on the conditions in which they live and navigate. Despite criticism, TikTok journalism offers critical avenues for under-represented or often overlooked stories and should be worthy of serious consideration.  

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