Even though fast expanding citizen journalism has created new opportunities for the media, its content still clashes with mainstream operators mainly for lack of professionalism. There are especially important questions about ethics in such content.
The explosion of internet and other new technology devices has resulted in a new trend where people cover events and disseminate content easily and immediately. Blogs, mobile devices, social networks, micro-blogging and other digital tools have allowed people to publish their own stories and cover their own communities (The transition to digital journalism, Paul Grabowicz, 2013). This is what has been referred as "citizen journalism" or "participatory journalism". This has had a remarkable impact on how the traditional media work. "The phenomenon of citizen journalism and the wider trend of user generated content are creating new challenges and opportunities for mainstream media."  Even if the content generated by citizens have contributed much in news gathering and dissemination, when it comes to regulations, professionalism and ethical standards, mainstream media and citizen generated content part ways. This is what, with relevant examples, I would like to focus on in this essay.
Citizen journalism has significantly created new opportunities and changed positively mainstream media in different ways. Citizen journalism has proven itself to be an effective part of news reporting and an asset to journalists and editors (See, Effects of citizen journalism on mainstream media by Effie Moore Salem). "As traditional newsrooms become more constrained by time and resources, the advent of user-generated content on the web can only strengthen journalism".  A good example of this is the "radio ambassadors" in Rwanda who call to tip journalists about news in their homes, or citizen journalist Ryan Boyette and his colleagues who have been documenting Sudanese government atrocities by gathering testimonies, photos and video from survivors and eyewitnesses. It is not easy for journalists to cover such things in Sudan but a citizen did. Twitter and mobile technology have allowed citizen journalists to more effectively broadcast the consequences of the repressive Iranian regime - even when major news outlets were blocked. And user-generated images of Abu Ghraib prison allowed the wider public to view immediate content on the palm of their hand (http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2010/jun/02/citizenmedia-us-press-publishing). Citizen journalism therefore not only competes very effectively with the mainstream media but it also promotes and even ensures in certain circumstances its accountability (Effects of citizen journalism on mainstream media, endorsed by International Journalists' Network by Gordon Hamilton).
Citizen journalism has been admired for its immediacy in reporting events, and this helps journalists to report adequately. This intervention has taken the world of journalism by storm, and while it often is not of the quality of the professional journalist, it assists media work (Effects of citizen journalism on mainstream media by Effie Moore Salem). For instance, if there is an erupting earthquake in Nyiragongo or a tornado in USA, contacting a frightened citizen is real news indeed.
Not only is citizen journalism effective for its immediacy but also people are telling their stories where they live. "When minorities and women and people who have known poverty and misfortune first-hand are authors of news, as well as its readers, the social world represented in the news expands and changes", sociologist Michael Schudson explains. Another example is where people are telling their stories is "iReport" , "MP Expenses" , a project by The Guardian in which people were asked to analyze hundreds of thousands of pages of expense reports of members of Parliament, or "Youtube" which has the motto of "broadcast yourself". As citizens can bypass mainstream media entirely and produce content and communicate directly with others, "Many journalists have decried this rise in "citizen journalism" as the triumph of amateurism over professionalism (The transition to digital journalism, Paul Grabowicz ,2013)
Even though citizen journalism has created new opportunities, its content still clashes with mainstream media mainly on lack of professionalism. Professional journalist do not cease to accuse citizen generated content of not meeting ethical standards every professional journalist should follow. As people who work in citizen journalism are not media literate, they don't care about privacy, sensitivity, balance, etc. If, for example, a minister goes to the night club to relax, people with their smart phones could film him and publish the story intending to shame him while they don't know they are intruding upon his privacy. During "Arab spring",  and now in the conflict of Syria, people used to be very sensitive in publishing dead bodies of children, something which is not acceptable ethically. This is where, therefore, claims will professional journalists excel because in citizen journalism people take anything that interests them and publish, regardless of whether it is ethical or not. So there will always be tension between mainstream media, with its emphasis on values, targets, accuracy, facts verification, balance, impartiality, newsworthiness, and gate-keeping; and citizen generated content which emphasize immediacy.
Citizen generated content has been also criticized for its unreliability. It becomes a puzzle especially for editors to judge the content as it is not easy to identify sources. For instance, during wartime in Syria, a politically motivated person can post a video taken during World War II and claim that it is President Assad's army who are using chemical weapons against the citizens. Consequently, if an editor is attentive to countercheck, he end up disseminating propaganda.
A story reported by a media literate person is much easier to take responsibility for if it causes harm, but for citizen journalism it may not be so easy. "Media educated reporter tries to apply some reservations, safeguards and responsibility during reporting, but with stories generated by everyman, where is protection and accountability?" asked Judith Miller, New York Times.
Mainstream media workers are not happy with citizen journalism generally because it tends to undermine the authority they used to have in gate keeping or deciding what is to be covered. In other words, citizen journalism is threatening mainstream media's supremacy. Instead, people are deciding what is news on their own and with cutting edge technology no one is able to do any gate-keeping on such content. Journalism will fundamentally shift from a top-down lecture to an open conversation (cf. Paulussen et al. 2007).
Furthermore, journalists are wary about losing their jobs. For example, if a media house opens here in Kigali, it will not need to hire as many journalists, but they will recruit few to investigate, check and assess the content other amateurs who are everywhere are sending in. As result, media houses will use lower operating costs like salaries, transport, and professional journalists are unhappy about this. In addition, in this era where everyone posts, there is confusion in determining who is really a journalist.
To conclude, this era of user generated content provides both opportunities and challenges/threats to mainstream media (Steve Paulussen and Pieter Ugille). The main challenge I see when I try to analyze mainstream media vs citizen generated content is the identification of source and reliability of that content. "It also can lead to inaccuracies or worse, in citizen reporting, such as when members of the Reddit social media news site claimed they had identified suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing case in April 2013, but the men were completely innocent. Reddit apologized and, in fairness, professional media also made egregious mistakes in reporting".  In other words, citizen journalism harms mainstream media in terms of professionalism, ethical standards, identification of who is a journalist or not, unemployment and low salaries, etc. But I suggest citizen journalists should learn basic professional guidelines so as to report as efficiently as possible. Although Hermida and Thurman (2007) observed a "progressive adoption" of user generated content by mainstream news organisations, the overall conclusion of the studies mentioned above is that professional newsrooms appear to be rather reluctant and cautious "to open up most of the news production process to the active involvement of citizens" (Domingo et al. 2007).
Didier Niyomukiza is at the School of Journalism and Communication, Kigali/Rwanda, and blogs at Floor of thoughts.
 See: User generated content in the newsroom: Professional Organization Constrains on Participatory journalism, Steve Paulussen, IBBT Reasearch Group for Media andICT(MICT), and Pieter Ugille, Department of communication sciences,Ghent University.
 A special section of CNN's website where people can post their own news stories, including video or photos
 Pro-democracy revolutionary wave/wind rose up in Middle East and Northern Africa in December 2010
 See,The transition to digital journalism, Paul Grabowicz ,2013.