Bossier Watch – Citizen Multimedia

The Information Age and Rise of Citizen Journalism

People in Bossier Parish are hungry for change. You could even make the argument that folks are craving change in the status quo. Because we are living right in the middle of the “Information Age”, there is no better time in history for the changes to take place. Many of the changes are fueled by citizen journalism.

Think about it this way: in decades past we were fed information from a very limited number of sources. There were the major TV networks, the major newspapers, your local TV networks, and the local newspapers. Eventually talk radio began a resurgence with the rise of Rush Limbaugh. Love him or hate him, the influence of his show cannot be denied. Even so, the information flow was still mainly a one-way street.

Fast forward to the last decade or so. Because of the rise of the internet and connectivity, there is now information flowing back and forth. Social media is king, but emails and digital newsletter are still wildly popular. A lot of people get wrapped up in the devices, but when you truly dig into the “Information Age”, it is not really about the hardware. It is about the information. It is about the data and the ease and speed with which it can be telegraphed, to use an old school term.

Recently, the status quo members of the Bossier City Council attempted a 5 year renewal of a vendor contract with Manchac Engineering Group, who run the city’s water and sewer departments. While completely legal and within their power, once the word got out, that attempt was thwarted. It did not take long either. Word spread nearly instantly via social media, online articles were published via various media outlets – and the effort was delayed. The Bossier City Council streams their meetings too. Public attendance at most meetings is typically low (Covid or not), but citizens can watch the proceedings online and see how it all transpires. Then those meetings or clips are shared.

The Bossier City Council also attempted to pass a resolution opposing legislation by local state representative Dodie Horton. Her bill, HB360, would start to shift the balance of power back towards the citizens of Bossier Parish and away from the bureaucrats appointed to the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation and Water Conservation District. When the agenda for the council meeting was released, hours later average citizens were paying attention and using the power of their digital voices to effect change. It worked.

Continuing the reporting on the small town of Plain Dealing, the newly elected mayor has now resigned. The information and opinion flow out of citizens up there is nothing short of amazing. Both sides, those for and those against the new mayor, have been sharing information at a furious pace. Some of that information is flowing on social media in a relatively public setting, but there is also information shared behind the scenes privately. In the “Information Age” people can privately, securely, and very anonymously shed light on things. Decades ago, that was far more difficult to do. Now it simply takes a handheld device and a few minutes.

Public Information Requests, commonly known as FOIA (although that is for federal records), can be made and fulfilled with just a few keystrokes. Government bodies post their agendas and minutes and budgets online. Granted, some may wait until the last possible legal minute, but the data is available for all to see. Looking up laws and ordinances does not take a legal team. Sure, you might need a lawyer to decipher some of the meanings, but even that can be done digitally.

The point is that we are not living in a computer age. We are living in the “Information Age” and an age of citizen journalism. That shifts the balance of power back towards the people – where it belongs.

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