The Rise of The Audience

By: Callie Mendenhall

 “Journalists are increasingly becoming the audience and the audience is increasingly becoming the journalist,” said Matthew LaPlante on Thursday, October 26. KUER’s own Radio West was recorded in the Hinkley Institute of Politics and the topic of the show was how journalism is shifting and how it’s affecting the audience. Doug Fabrizio hosted the show alond side the panel of four others: Matthew Ingram, a senior writer at; Holly Mullen, a writer and former reporter; Matthew LaPlante, a journalism instructor at Utah Sate; and Holly Richardson, a member of the Utah House of Representatives and an active blogger.

The way citizens receive information is changing. Journalism used to be an article about every event, but now even Jeff Jarvis, an American journalist, is saying, “Today an article is no longer needed for every event.” What that means is now piece of information or journalism might be a tweet or a Facebook status instead of a well-written and edited news article. News is now on a 24-hour cycle and it can no longer be an industry where news and stories are only updates every morning when the paper comes out. If a person wants information about anything they are able to get on the Internet and find it out. Ingram said, “We are turning the Internet into a small town where everyone knows everything.”

Because everyone knows everything, journalists have had to change the way that they interact with their audience by making news a process and not a product.

“The relationship between journalist and the audience was fundamentally disconnected”, said Ingram with the concurrence of Mullen and Richardson. Before the wave of social media, a story was written and then unless a journalist got a letter from a citizen it was done. Now when a journalist writes a story, they get an immense amount of feedback within minutes from their readers. This change has made the journalists more accountable for their information put out. Kate VanWagoner, a senior communication major at the University of Utah said she believes that, “Journalism has reached a new level of efficiency.”

Social media is still a work in progress and therefore is still having many hiccups and discussions along the way. With Facebook and Twitter anyone can be a journalist, but discussed in the show is, is it necessary to be a card-carrying journalist anymore?  Richarson who had no college training to be a journalist said she feels a person doesn’t have to have the training of a college degree because a person can simply teach themselves. Mullen, on the other side, said she believes that having a degree and learning techniques in college in order to write is extremely important and society will never lose the appreciation for it. Traditional journalists or card-carrying journalists will always have a place in journalism, but now so do citizen journalists.

Citizen journalists report information to citizens every day because the traditional journalist can even submit a story on the same event and that is how journalism is changing.  Citizen journalists are everywhere and continue to grow everyday.

When the panel of guests were asked how to be a citizen journalist the answer was to be interesting, relevant, factual and above all seek the truth and report it.

Emily Dunn, a junior communication major at the University of Utah said, I would consider myself a citizen journalist, but I’m still taking the appropriate steps in order to get an education to learn everything that I possibly can.”

Journalism is an ever-changing industry and LaPlante put it best that we are democratizing the system of journalism by having the audience become the journalist and the journalists become the audience.