Western journalists dutifully issue accolades for friends in the business who are killed covering military conflicts - but they are primarily highly-paid elites and very much do not want to take unnecessary risks.
When you add in the complexities of a dictatorship, where corporate and local journalists who want to remain out of jail only go where they are told to go, the coverage becomes even more pointless. But citizen journalists in places like Syria can go places corporate journalists won't, or can't, according to a paper in the Index on Censorship magazine. It found more reports were coming from citizen journalists than traditional media, in all areas of the country, with the exception of Homs.
Index on Censorship magazine worked with Syria Tracker, the independent news tracker, which has scanned 160,000 news reports and social media updates to look at the scale of citizen journalism. Few professional journalists go into remote regions of Syria, it says. Instead thousands of citizens are helping to get the news of the devastation out. To date, Syria Tracker has mapped over 4,000 geotagged verified eyewitness reports, and uses large-scale data mining to scan news reports and social media updates. Only verified data are published – around six percent of what Syria Tracker receives. Manual checking can take several days, and includes correlating nearby reports and sometimes involves scanning gruesome and shaky video footage. Members of the core team work two to three hours each day in addition to their day jobs.
Data compiled for Index on Censorship showed that the majority of news reports (June 2011 to Feb 2014) outside Homs were sourced via crowdsourcing, rather than traditional news journalism. For instance in Aleppo, 184 reports came from news articles, and 18,776 from crowd sourcing, according to Syria Tracker data.