In riots, protests, and war, journalists are oftentimes separated from those involved in the events to maintain the neutrality of their point of view which will later be portrayed in their stories and news reports. However, at first, wartime journalists were very partisan in their stories as they “cheered” on our military efforts during the first and second world wars. It wasn’t until the war in Vietnam that the press began displaying their independence of the military as they published numerous uncensored stories about the harsh realities of war; these stories fueled the antiwar feelings at home and ultimately led to the end of the war. Consequently, the military blamed the press for losing Vietnam and proceeded to restrict them from covering the war efforts and conditions in Panama until most of the fighting had ceased.
Fast forward a few decades, there are now riots breaking out in Ferguson, Missouri, over numerous cases of police misconduct and brutality. Initially, the press did not report on the incidents; instead, citizens became their own journalists as they used social media sites such as Twitter to report on more incidents in Ferguson and to get the public’s attention. As more people became concerned with the events in Ferguson, the more the press became interested in the events in Ferguson, and the more professional journalists present in Ferguson covering these events. However, these professional journalists, unlike the citizen journalists, are not participating in the events unfolding around them; they are solely there to gather information and share it with the rest of the world, not to participate. This is the main difference between citizen journalists and professional journalists. This difference (their lack of neutrality) makes it difficult for the government to grant or even want to grant them special privileges since they are not abiding by their duties as a journalist. Even if they did, essentially anyone would be a citizen journalist, and then the “special privileges” would no longer be “special” since everyone has access to them; the special privileges would be the new normal.