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Who is a journalist?


In this lesson, students will explore the differences between citizen journalism and professional journalism, including education, ethical content and judgment. They will consider the benefits and limitations of citizen journalism and how the process may affect the quality of information citizens can consume.


  • Students will compare and contrast citizen and professional journalism.
  • Students will examine the benefits and limitations of citizen journalism.
  • Students will assess the use of citizen journalism in today’s media landscape.
  • Students will develop their own code of ethics as citizen journalists.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.


50 minutes


Slideshow: Citizen Journalism

Extra resources/links

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that today, they’re going to learn about social media and try to understand where it fits in with traditional “professional” news media. Ask students:

  • Does anyone know what I mean by “citizen journalism?” (write ideas on board)
  • Do any of you consider yourselves “citizen journalists?” Why? Why not?
  • What do you think makes a citizen journalist different from a professional journalist?

2. Defining citizen journalism and examples — 15 minutes

[Open and begin slideshow]

3. Create the citizen journalist code of ethics — 10 minutes

Explain that since all of us are media users, there’s a good chance that one day we might also be a citizen journalist, even if only for one moment (or one day). So, you’d like for them to create their own code of ethics that they would abide by as a citizen journalist. In pairs, ask students to write a list of 5-7 things they will do as as a citizen journalist to make sure that they provide good citizen journalism and not poor or misleading citizen journalism, as in the case of the Boston bombing.

For more information on ethics, please see the lesson “Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Always Mean You Should.”

For each action, they should write a sentence or two explaining why it is important.

4. Share — 15 minutes

Have each group stand up and share their list with the class, and use the board to summarize their codes of ethics. Then, as a class, you can create a master code of ethics for citizen journalists using all the contributions of your students.