How to avoid danger as a citizen journalist

Putting yourself in danger is only one of several warnings citizen journalists should heed, writes Ron Ross co-author of the Handbook for Citizen Journalists. Here Ross lists ten bad ideas that citizen journalists should avoid:

It’s a bad idea to be a photo forger – the manipulation of any digital image is a big mistake. It is NEVER right to Photoshop someone in or out of a picture or otherwise change the true image. It makes you a liar and a fraud.

It’s a bad idea to put your self in any kind of danger. Just because the river is rising doesn’t mean you have to walk out to the levee for a great shot of the breach! It could kill you – as could walking into the middle of a street melee for a better view of the brawl.

It’s a bad idea to trespass. If you don’t have permission to walk across the field or into an office, don’t go there. To trespass is a criminal act so get permission first or you may get acquainted with your local police!

It’s a bad idea to mislead. Tell the truth – even if it’s not what you wanted to write about. “Spin” is just a nice word for hoodwink. Make sure your photos, videos, cutlines, headlines and news stories deal with real facts presented in an honest sequence for the most accurate story.

It’s a bad idea to fabricate news. Don’t invent events, create characters or make up quotations. If you want a quick and certain end to your career as a citizen journalist, just make up some news and you’ll soon be on your way back to your old dead-end job.

It’s a bad idea to hurt people for the sake of a story. Some news hurts innocent people so be careful when doing a story on a tragic situation. Have some human compassion for victims and/or their loved ones.

It’s a bad idea to identify certain people. Juvenile suspects or victims should NEVER be identified. Adult or child victims of sexual abuse should NEVER be identified.

It’s a bad idea to take bribes. Bribes can come in the form of special favors, gifts, fees, travel expenses, or special treatment for covering an event or for spinning the story a certain way. All are wrong and must be avoided.

It’s a bad idea to plagiarize. Research is one thing – plagiarism is something else. Many journalists (citizen or professional) have ruined their careers because they couldn’t bother to write the story their way but just lifted it word-for-word from someone else.

It’s a bad idea to disregard common sense. Don’t get so caught up in an event or a story that you lose a sense of right or wrong, safety or danger. Pay attention to your gut feelings. If it feels wrong or dangerous – it probably is. It’s your career and sometime it’s your life that is at stake.

To find out more about the Handbook for Citizen Journalists visit



1 Response to "How to avoid danger as a citizen journalist"


Wed, 12/05/2012 - 05:01
I would hope that doctoring a picture would be on everyones no no list.