Reddit, The Boston Bombers And Citizen Journalism – Is It An Issue?

A Satirical look at Reddit's attempt to find the Boston Bombers. Photo courtesy of Gawker.

A Satirical look at Reddit’s attempt to find the Boston Bombers. Photo courtesy of Gawker.

In 2013, amidst the man hunt for Boston Bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the online media platform of Reddit was focusing on a man hunt of their very own. Using the wide range of resources available to them through citizen journalism, the aggregated news site wrongly identified Sunil Tripathi as one of the men involved and subsequently proceeded to wrongfully accuse and throw hurt onto the Tripathi family, who were completely innocent. This incident was to many a big wake up call as to the dangers of citizen journalism and how its ever growing reach is an issue to journalism as a whole.

Citizen Journalism has been noted as being as positive thing in controlled circumstances, such as in Taiwan, where contributors are required to submit a formal application to put their work on the website This results in a higher quality of journalism and forms a pathway for untrained journalists to work on their craft. However, in the US, Citizen Journalism has often been critiqued for a number of reasons, predominantly the lack of reliability; something which has also been critiqued in Australia by Dr. Vincent O’Donnell. Another major issue is the lack of ethics shown in citizen journalism, which was discussed by the Huffington Post in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

There is no denying that Citizen Journalism is here to stay. As Kate Buckley put it for the Guardian, incidents such as Occupy Wall Street are “changing the landscape of documentary film-making” as well as giving many people access to a wealth of resources all thanks to the idea of citizen journalism. With the relative ease that Citizen Journalism can be created, many media outlets are starting to become more weary of this issue, due to both the benefits and detriments outlined by the Huffington Post which could cause citizen journalism to play a bigger role in modern journalism in the near future.


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