Citizen journalism, or participatory journalism, is the product of the digital age. The affordable and approachable internet and telecommunication technologies have turned the audience, passive recipients of information and news into publishers as the costs of communication and being a speaker were practically eliminated (Benkler 2006). These amateur producers play the roles of professional reporters, journalists, and columnists, create their own original contents, discuss social and political issues, forming a discourse that may differ from the mainstream news outlets. Citizen journalism is changing our understanding of who can produce news and the definition of news; on the other hand, it inherits many norms of traditional journalism like news freedom, truth, accuracy, and immediacy. Citizen journalism is not a utopia for participatory democracy; at least it faces many obstacles approaching the idealized world, especially in China where mass media is held by the government under surveillance of the state.
This project is designed to illustrate the development of citizen journalism and challenges it confronts in China, which include doubts on its professionalism, internet censorship and the commercialization and fragmentation of social media platforms. These challenges are interlaced with human forces, as well as material and technological factors that might be ignored. And we should also bear in mind that the organization of citizen journalism is of dynamics that deserves our continuous reflections on its outside environment and internal compositions.