The concept of “Citizen Journalists” or “Pamphleteers” has a rich American history, but it is not solely American. Before any organized government existed in America, the intellectual discussions on freedom, the Rights of man, and democracy were exchanged in the form of small printed newsletters known as ‘pamphlets.’
Long before a national press, citizens like Thomas Paine challenged the arguments for monarchy and English rule in the New World with his writings such as “Common Sense.” Pamphlets gave ordinary citizens a voice to question authority, inform the general public, convey insight, display comedy, and help guide the birth of a nation toward the free principles that founded America. As national newspapers, and later radio & television networks, provided those same things, the pamphleteers went into hibernation.
With the dawn of the Internet, the ordinary citizen had the power once again to publish information and views to a wide audience inexpensively. As Major Media outlets became accustom to their position of information power, so did their deterioration from what was once “journalistic integrity” has now became ingrained bias. In the early 2000’s the modern day pamphleteers re-surged with the ability to publish on the Internet the same information, views, and content their earlier predecessors did over 200 years ago.
Be it the open and repeated disregard of the Constitution in 2008-2009 with Congress and the actions of President Obama, or many reaching a breaking point of discontent with government officials ignoring the wishes of The People, Citizen Journalism made a huge resurgence which is leaving Major Media and the old newspapers in the dust. The bias of network news is being replaced with self-published news & opinion websites as the primary source for news and information, and placing the defense of truth where it belongs – in the hands of The People.
At the Bell News we not only recognize this shift, we strongly encourage it. Each of the Contributors on this website have a similar story, much like the pamphleteers before us. They recognized problems in our country that were not being addressed, stories being ignoring or misrepresented by network news, and corrupt or anti-American organizations lacking the journalistic vetting which the Press should be doing. Each of them are ordinary citizens with family, friends, and a day job (when they can find one), and also struggling to pay bills, keep gas in their cars, etc. Most of them were not web designers or programmers, but they learned a working knowledge of posting articles online along with researching, asking questions, listening, and writing.
As we have learned in previous elections & townhall meetings, a well placed video recorder can be a powerful tool in the search for truth and honesty. A perfect example of this is the video captured by citizen journalist Adam Sharp of SharpElbows.net before the 2010 election. He caught on video IL Rep. Phil Hare stating in regards to Obamacare, “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this to be honest.” Clearly, it was an election changer. In addition, reading and writing are exponential, the more you do it the better you become. Each of them, like many others, were motivated by a patriotic conscience that America should reflect the principles that brought about her miraculous birth of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. When ambition meets direction, the incredible can happen. Citizen Journalists over the past few years have helped to keep what could have been forgotten news stories on government corruption, front and center in the American consciousness. For example, it was two citizen journalists who broke the Fast & Furious Gun-Walking story, that to this day hounds Eric Holder and the Department of Justice.
Below are some links to websites we have found helpful over the years, and continue to use to this day for research, reference, and tools to help publish and promote our articles. This list is subject to change, in order to bring you the most up-to-date information we can. There are an endless amount of useful resources on the Internet for news and information, but this is just a list to get you started.
Some Helpful Links:
Some websites actively seek contributing writers in many, many different topics. Some websites even pay their contributors a small portion of cash. The amount of money one can raise is dependent upon topics and visitor traffic the article draws to their website.
Whether you host your own WordPress website or have WordPress host your website on their servers at WordPress.com, their powerful content management system is the same. Below is a great video for walking you through setting up your own website with a WordPress system. It is about an hour long but has some great info, so take notes along with time stamps so you can go back to certain sections. Learning to use the WordPress Content Management System, or CMS, is really about as easy to learn and use MS Word. Like anything, spending some time playing around with it is the best way to learn.
WordPress Plugins are very powerful little mini-programs that perform a specific function. Installing them into your WordPress website is quite easy and setting them up can vary in difficulty. Some take no set-up at all, while can be a bit more challenging, however the directions are usually quite good.
Other Free Website Hosting With CMS:
For a professionally designed or built website or blog or questions about either, check-out MarkusDesignWorks.com.
These are some great general news websites, good for scanning many topics and many different news sources.
Watchdog Groups & Resources:
- Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
- Stimulus Watchdog
- Election Journal
- Discover the Networks
- Heritage Foundation
- Institute for Justice
- Judicial Watch
- Daily Source
- Freedom Foundation
- Sunlight Foundation
- Cato Institute
- National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)
- The Investigative Project on Terrorism
- Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
- Open Congress
- Open Secrets
- Map Light
I have found Facebook and Twitter, to my surprise, to be good sources for scanning alot of headlines quickly, especially if you Like or Friend many different Facebook pages from news sources. By far the most effective tool I have found to make the best use of my time has been using Twitter with Tweet Deck. With a Twitter account following many different news & information sources, Tweet Deck allows you to group Twitter accounts that you follow into different columns. For example, you might have Local News Sources in one column, National News Sources in another column, and your Favorite News Blogs in still another column. This gives you the convenience of scanning alot of headlines and news & info sources very quickly.
Writing Resources & Articles:”
As you can imagine, journalistic writing has its own style and rules. Much of it is common sense; answer the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why), write objectively – “Just the Facts,” etc. The Franklin Center is a great resource for learning more about citizen journalism, in addition they also offer classes on the subject in different regional areas.
Some Helpful Articles:
Below that are a few good articles on the basic rules of writing for journalism. It is strange, as many in the journalism industry seemed to have forgotten how to be objective, the rules of ethics they should be following are still quite prominent on some of their websites.
- “The Pros and Pros of ‘Citizen Journalism'”
- “Eight Simple Rules for Doing Accurate Journalism”
- “Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics”
- “Top 10 Rules for Citing Sources in Journalism”
Also see some articles & videos that have been the results of some great Citizen Journalism, along with tips & tools on better developing the craft.