Monday, 26 February 2018

Citizen Journalism

Citizen Journalism taking edge over Conventional Media

Man landing on the Moon, John F. Kennedy’s assassination or Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the world learned about these incidents through conventional means of mass media. People were glued to newspapers, radio and TV sets to know each and every detail.

“Incident of September, 11, 2001, airplanes exploding into two skyscrapers” and 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks also “followed the same pattern, but with a little change…. This time regular audience was also part of news making,” claimed Dan Gillmor in his book               We the Media. “
 People shot and posted the video of the event on the social media sites and sent them to media channels before reporters could actually reach there. People narrated their eye accounts in their blogs.
That was the first time when professional media acknowledged and used the contribution of the citizen journalism in their news feeds…. The advent of technology made it possible.

Today, it has become a revolutionary reality of the media around. Almost every day some video or tweet is surfacing and grabbing headlines. PM Modi too prefers to tweet rather than conduct a conventional press conference. New means of communications and gadgets made it possible for anyone to report anything, anywhere with no cost and great global reach.

Going by definition, Citizen Journalism is, indeed, Community Journalism. It is also known as Grassroots or Participatory Journalism where local people give local news and participate in the news making. They collect, report and disseminate information.

The movement of Citizen Journalism dates back to early 2000s, particularly in the US. But the origins of citizen journalism are as old as journalism, when pamphlets and reports were issued by citizens. Slowly situation changed, people started sending their news directly to the newspapers and media houses. 

Considering the importance of citizen journalism and larger audience, big media organisations like BBC, The Times of India, CNN-IBN, NDTV also started offering space to citizen journalism. They have their own posts for the citizen journalism through blogs and posts.

In fact, Google is also testing a new mobile app called “Bulletin” that allows residents in a community to report and post local news stories. 

In India, we have some great platforms of Citizen Journalism. Meri News with motto: "Power to people" was the first Indian website wholly devoted to citizen journalism. Khabar Leheria is also a newspaper, run by local people and published in rural dialects of Hindi, including Bundeli and Avadhi. Jan Ki Baat is an online platform where people are posting their videos and stories.  There are various community radio platform too where local people generate content and talk about social issues.

Here, the reporting is more focused and issued-based in nature.

Its presence on internet is also quite significant. Movement like ‘India Against Corruption’ validates its presence in the society. The increase in social networking and advancement in technology has made citizen journalism platforms more active and reachable.

Nirbhaya case, 2012 and Orissa, 2017 is also testimony to the fact that how people galvanized the power of citizen journalism and successfully delivered concrete reliefs for the victims.

Students of Journalism in Orissa played pivotal role in giving authentic news/ relief updates to people of inaccessible areas. This is a great case of reporting by citizen Journalists in crisis.

In fact, epistemological roots of community radio go back to “crisis reporting and wartime reporting only.” According to Allan and Thorsen, “The birth of citizen journalism as such, lay in crisis reporting and wartime reporting which was later spread to other areas of global pandemics.“  

Also, it is a great outlet for Journalists who felt restricted by their editors in exposing the truth.  Citizen journalism is their alternative to protect the truth.

It is a boon for wider and detailed coverage of all local issues. As journalists are mostly busy in covering national and other important issues, citizen journalists play an important role in catering to the local needs of society. They are the real watchdog of their locality and community.

In fact, many untouched or unreported areas like tribal areas of the country have benefited because of citizen journalism. Here, tribals could raise their voice against the local problems and disparities that they find hard to talk about otherwise. ‘Voice of Chhattisgarh’ is an apt example for it.

However, the only drawback Citizen Journalism faces is that this kind of reporting or writing is not subjugated to any gate keeping or checks.
But, it very well serves the purpose of journalism that is informing and educating people.

Geetika Vashishata
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication Studies