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Citizen Journalism Looks to a Better World
[Part 2] Idealism must inform netizenship
Maria Margaretta Vivijanti (retty67)     Print Article 
Published 2007-07-14 12:05 (KST)   
When I arrived in Seoul for the OhmyNews International (OMNI) Citizen Reporters Forum, friends from Indonesia's wikimu ("your wiki") asked me to pay special attention to the third day's events. They were especially interested in the search for a sustainable business model.

Struggling to map out its own trajectory for success, wikimu.com has yet to celebrate its first year. When I asked its managers for someone to escort me to Seoul, they pleaded "other budget priorities."

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The financial survival of netizen Web sites is essential to sustain interactive global journalism. The mainstream media, which give us our point of departure in their presentation of existing public opinion, at the same time are opening to embrace more readers in reportage and distribution. This article is a filtering of the topic from the forum across into my own environment of mainstream media and citizen journalism in Indonesia.

Citizen Reporters' Incentives

I don't want to go into "amateur vs. professional" now, since, other than being invited to this forum, netizenship and trying to become a full-time blogger already account for my resources in time and money.

I was attending a session of Reader셲 Digest Indonesia about "Looking for Cash in the Cyber World" and wrote an article for wikimu.com. The feedback was varied but mostly to the effect that it is still very expensive to navigate the cyber world. I am glad to have had Jeremy Jacquot share his experience as a full time blogger in the forum, first having to free myself from my technophobia before I could really join him as a full time blogger.

Considering the issue of fairness in rewarding citizen reporters, I셝 rather valorize trust first and foremost -- the trust that the Citizen Journalism Web sites show me in making room for my thoughts -- the same trust I would afford them in deciding my remuneration. A forum like the one I attended should be generously funded. I am thankful to all the sponsors and also to the citizen reporters and readers who helped provide the wherewithal enabling us to gather together.

A netizen without a background in journalism, I셶e picked up a lot from this forum. I normally find it challenging to prepare an article and attend to an ongoing session at the same time. My room mate, however, who was trained as a journalist, told me that it was a part of her training.

I do need to learn a lot yet from experienced journalists about presenting facts on a subject and tying them together -- providing a balanced perspective that could help us gain some traction toward the chimerical goal of PEACE would surely be the ultimate appeal of citizen journalism, if we are able first to provide for our own and others basic needs without favoritism.

In wikimu.com I do not have any cash reward for my articles, but I know that the management are still struggling to be trusted by both community and the advertisers. It is also my obligation as a contributor to help them gain that trust so that I might continue having a chance to be heard in the cyber world of "bahasa Indonesia" (the language of Indonesia-ed.).

I have noted that professional journalists (I have to use the term 쐏rofessional as it is the only way it fitted in) know how to perceive an object or event from different perspectives to find a market for it, which is how they put groceries on the table.

Good financing will help reporters do good journalism. Friends at the forum mentioned the advantages of having the appropriate tools for producing good news, which is why the comment was raised about citizen reporters rewards.

Back here in Indonesia I saw an advertisement for an item bearing a well-known IT-brand made in Korea. There are new accessories for the cell phone that can give us full-office capability in a hand-held device. I셝 say that IT products or other electronic gadgetry could form the basis of another kind of incentive scheme to cultivate good relations with producers. It would provide product publicity while reporters could get it as a reward, or by exchanging our cybercash at a discount. It could also be an entree to get it from a local jobber of the brand.

Another basis for incentives could be the availability of scholarships or training that might be possible in the future if OhmyNews goes forward with plans for educational programming. Wikimu.com already holds informal training meetings which might be developed into more formal training schemes for citizen reporters.

Personally, I find comments from readers another form of reward. The best arrangement would be to be able to rely on my writing as my source of income instead of subsidizing it as a hobby.

Citizen Journalism and the Mainstream Media

I셶e noted that OhmyNews produces a free printed edition every week, which is also a recent trend for the media here in Indonesia. There are more and more free community magazines or tabloids, some of which have the financial backing of mainstream media, while others depend wholly on advertisers.

The mainstream media are also gearing up for a changing world with a reader contact feature that can serve would-be contributors. They are making a pitch to children and youth with space for their writing. Other media televise discussion groups on editorial topics. Comments arriving through SMS or e-mail could be viewed through the printed version of the newspaper.

Will citizen journalism survive? If so, how? are questions that depend on the goals of the founders and their management skill. Consistently seeking a better world in concert with their netizen reporters could really make a difference in their viability. Progressing together along the right path should be possible for readers and contributors loyal to the community. Tacking down advertising revenue is a managerial resource of paramount importance, followed by the people skills to improve service to both readers and contributors, and to be able to predict the special needs pertaining to the global community.

Transportation is still the main problem for the distribution of Indonesian mainstream media. The slowness and high cost of transportation make it a prime candidate for replacement by citizen journalism Web sites news. As citizen reporters do not have enough financial support, we are still very dependent on getting first-hand news from reporters with the mainstream media. I think that by complementing each other we could both survive.

Citizen journalism Web sites can survive by giving the personal touch on the news and by being the watchdog of the government and the press. The mainstream media can survive by presenting wider points of view, financing investigative reporting, and by including the "third rail" topics presented by the citizen journalism Web sites. We셱e stronger and could really help building a better nation and a better world as long as we share the same ideal: A better and a more peaceful world!
This article will be translated into Bahasa Indonesia for wikimu.com
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Maria Margaretta Vivijanti

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