More traditional media pundits blustered (somewhat rightly) about the dangers of news gathering from nonprofessional sources; outlets that reported on the Adult Friend Finder profile did not credit Jones or Reddit.
"It was sort of a strange feeling, like Reddit's supposed to be this aggregate news site, but we're actually breaking news to the media right now," Jones told the New York Times.
None of which is to say that the media establishment is infallible — the rise of the vigilante investigation and record-low levels of public distrust of media is surely no coincidence.
The internet's uncanny ability to add fuel to the fire of our cultural obsessions no doubt plays a role as well.
This same acknowledgement — that the media no longer owns the story — has simultaneously provided momentum to the internet's growing legion of amateur detectives and uncredentialed investigative reporters.
They're players in nearly ever major internet scandal of 2014: the online manhunt for Bryan Hamade, the man believed to have leaked Jennifer Lawrence's nude photos and sparked "The Fappening"; the sexual-harassing, doxxing, ethics crusading online Hydra behind Gamer Gate; the cold-case internet sleuthing inside the Serial podcast subreddit (which had 24,943 subscribers as of this writing); and, most recently, the troubling outing of the alleged victim behind Rolling Stone's now-bungled UVA campus rape story by a former writer turned internet troll.
While the Boston bombing Reddit disaster tempered media optimism toward of the online citizen investigative complex, its high profile was a clear signal to the anonymous practitioners of vigilante "journalism": True or not, their voices were a dominant part of the greater media landscape.
The rise of the vigilante investigation now seems undergirded by the internet-utopian idea that any and all information should be free and that those with the digital means to procure that information should be compelled to expose it.It has a vast new subject matter in the personal, corporate, and government information that has migrated to the social web.But in many instances, citizen journalism is something like the more troubling idea of citizen policing — that is, vigilantism: taking the powerful, and even dangerous tools of journalism to the communities with the least responsible actors.Citizen journalism was one of the great dreams of the mid-2000s internet.