The People’s Decision: Better off with Citizen Journalism

23 Mar 2016

The winners of the inaugural UQ Great Debate successfully defended the statement, ‘we are better off with citizen journalism.’

The debate was hotly contested with debaters resorting to props and even dancing in an attempt to push their team over the line.

Host Steve Cannane from ABC’s The Drum had to contain some sharp rebuttals, and the audience interacted with the speakers via twitter throughout the debate.

Each team was composed of an undergraduate student, an post-graduate student, and a faculty-member at the university.

Amalia Buckerfield is a dual degree undergraduate Journalism and Communications student who represented the negative team.

“The opportunity for undergrad and post-grad students and lecturers to work together to produce a high quality and well-researched debate shows that learning and industry-engagement also happens outside the class room,” she said.

Although she and her team argued that citizen journalism created an excess of non-professional, irrelevant and even dangerous information, the affirmative team were able to convince the audience that we are still better off having citizens participate in sharing information and news.

Ms Buckerfield’s team-mate, Dr Sean Rintel from the School of Journalism and Communication, fought against citizen journalism, despite being a strong supporter of it.

“As a communication technology academic and a digital rights advocate, I believe strongly in the democratization afforded by new media,” said Dr Rintel.

“The collaboration between citizen journalists and professionals - including those in independent media organisations - through technology, is both the most important change to the fourth estate since journalism was professionalized, and also a powerful way to ensure that civil society has the variety of voices needed to ensure that power is never total,” he said.

At the close of his speech, Dr Rintel also performed a near-perfect rendition of the highly popular song Gangman Style by Korean pop-star PSY.

The final result was determined by the audience using remote-answering ‘clickers’, with the affirmative team receiving 69 per cent of the votes.

“I think at the end of the day it was just about good debatesmanship and it was an entertaining, and informative event that everyone was glad to be part of,” said Ms Buckerfield.

John Cook is a member of UQ’s Global Change Institute and created the website Skeptical Science.

He argues that both teams performed well, but that the negative team came into the debate at a disadvantage.

“I did feel for them as they were pushing against the wind in arguing against citizen journalism - even dancing and funny props couldn't help them,” he said.

Dr Sean Rintel agrees, saying, “I think the audience rightly went with hope for better, over fear about current troubles.”

“We want citizen journalism because we hope that it gives us all a voice,” said Dr Rintel.

The UQ Great Debate was part of Research Week at UQ and was run conjointly by The Graduate School and the Office of Undergraduate Education.


21 September 2012