Citizen Watchdogs
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Average Duration
60+ Minutes
Difficulty Level
Lesson Host
Tamerra Griffin
of the nonprofit journalism organization, Rest of World (formerly of BuzzFeed News)

Learn the ways that ordinary people can document and expose wrongdoing, including monitoring news coverage for breaches of journalism standards, by examining a series of case studies.

News literacy topics

Digital citizenship; Investigative journalism/watchdog role; Social media; Standards of quality journalism

Learning objectives

  • I can name several ways that ordinary people can play a watchdog role.
  • I can explain the details of four citizen watchdog case studies.
  • I can describe the relationship between citizen watchdogs and journalists.

Essential questions

  • How can ordinary people play the watchdog role?
  • How do citizen watchdogs and journalists interact with one another?
  • How are personal technology, social media and citizen watchdogs connected?
  • What issues or subjects are most in need of citizen watchdogs today?
  • Do particular issues or subjects lend themselves to citizen watchdogs? Are there some that do not?


“Examples of citizen watchdogs go back as far as there have been individuals to witness events and help bring them to the public’s attention. But, the widespread availability of video cameras, especially cell phone cameras, the Internet and social media have empowered more people than ever to play a watchdog role in more ways than ever. That means you – yes, you – also have the power to be a citizen watchdog, drawing attention to wrongdoing or injustice. As we take a look at the examples I mentioned, we’ll study how citizen watchdogs have helped document and bring public attention to important events. And along the way, we’ll also consider the challenges and opportunities of this evolving form of civic engagement.”