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When I first interviewed for my job, one of the tasks I had to do was develop a presentation on ‘citizen based journalism.’ Now this was in 2011 and I started to wonder whether anything had changed since my findings then. In short, the only change I’ve seen is the growth of this trend where public citizens play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information (thanks for the definition Wikipaedia).

In my opinion, there is no longer a clear definition between what is news and what is noise about daily happenings. News has become what you as an individual deem it to be. We can now pick and choose what news we consume – we are no longer reliant on what the 10 o’clock news tells us. In fact, due to the instantaneous nature of the social world we live in, the 10 o’clock news and the morning papers are actually giving us old news.

So who is the journalist in 2013? We have journalists in a traditional sense who work for a news organisation, whose sole job is to find, gather and analyse news. But then we have us. If we provide real-time updates as an event unfolds, does that make us journalists too?

When there was the helicopter crash in Vauxhall last month, I saw it before it even made the news because one of my Facebook friends uploaded a photo of the smoke from the scene as they waited for a train. Is he a journalist? No, not in the traditional sense. But when you think of the purpose of a journalist’s job, then this certainly fulfilled that criteria.

I like that now the two roles merge. Traditional journalists have come to rely on people to provide the on-the-ground, credible perspective; often viewing their Tweetdeck feeds as the new newswire when it comes to keeping abreast of current stories.

And I know this isn’t a new concept, I just wonder how, and if, it will change in the future. Will we become ever more skeptical of what is packaged to us as ‘news’ and turn to our social profiles for on-the-ground reporting and opinion. Perhaps we will become a little more selective in who and what we follow, but I think the future of news reporting is most definitely in the social sphere. And this ties nicely to one of my earlier posts about why social media sits with PR professionals.

Also on this topic we have the term ‘news jacking’; the art of latching on to a current piece of news and becoming part of the conversation, and something that sits so beautifully across news and social media. Done right, this can work really well and is an easy PR quick win. A great example of this right now is the Harlem shake that’s currently causing a pretty impressive online storm. If you don’t know about it, firstly, where have you been, and secondly, Google it!

And now there are a lot of companies, charities and groups of friends on Friday nights recording their own versions and jumping in on the current hot topic. A really good example was done this week by JG Environmental, who did a pest-themed Harlem shake. In an awesome example of the power of both PR and social media (here is where I get excited!) there was a hashtag, a YouTube video with views increasing by the minute, online conversations and even local media coverage. If you want to know how to become part of a meme whilst promoting your business and giving your company that personality that social media allows you to do so well – take a look at these guys. And for that matter, their social media strategy in general is one to be admired.

And on that note, I’m off to Harlem shake around my house.

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