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A Citizen Reporter's Take on Global Citizen Journalism
Rajen Nair looks at the emerging trends in citizen media
Rajen Nair (rajennair)     Print Article 
Published 2007-07-31 19:33 (KST)   
After taking part in the International Citizen Reporter셲 Forum held in June at Seoul, thanks to the invitation by OhmyNews, I came back feeling strong about the concept of citizen journalism. During the two days of forum where the nitty-gritty of citizen journalism was discussed in threadbare gave me a new perspective about the role of citizen journalism.

Now when I look back at the forum in retrospective it not only made me think of my role as citizen journalism but also propelled me to look at the new emerging trends in global citizen journalism.

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I think the concept and importance of citizen journalism is gaining wide recognition among global mainstream media and satellite television. At least here in India there is a realization among the television channels and the main stream print media of the growing importance of the role of citizen journalist.

Whenever a natural disaster takes place in India, for example during monsoon the floods have become a common reoccurring feature in Mumbai, the television channels are quick enough to put out announcement inviting citizens from their respective areas to send video or mobile clipping of the flood recording to them for airing it on news.

In the past I too have contributed my photos about the Mumbai floods to Star News television and later followed it up with an article in OhmyNews, which had helped my photos seen by the global viewers.

The print media like Times of India and others have followed the new trend of giving out the mailing address of its author just at the end of each article requesting citizens to give their views or rating of the article read by replying back through SMS. This way they can collect feedback about the popularity of the article and it셲 Author.

This phenomenon of inter-participatory journalism between the commoner and the media is becoming new emerging trend in collection and dissipating of news. Due to the mushrooming of television channels and print media the competition to survive day by day is becoming more cut throat.

It is not always possible for the media to be present everywhere so they seek out citizen journalist by alluring them with free publicity of their names appearing in media. This interaction process between the media and the ordinary citizen benefits both ways. The televisions in trying to reach out to the people lend a voice to the people for presenting their side of the true stories. This way they try to beat their rivals by bringing in wider and elaborate news coverage.

Mobile, camcorder and camera has become a useful tool for citizen journalist for clicking vitals photos when he or she happens to be near to hot spot of incident. The global television giants such as CNN or BBC realize that despite having world wide network of communication manned by large force of journalist, it is not always possible to be physically present everywhere at times of unexpected incidents. CNNIBN television has listed number of citizen journalist in many areas in Mumbai.

The 9/11 incident is a case in point where in lot of people who had witness the twin towers crumbling, lost no time in recording the event live in their mobile, camcorder or camera. The tsunami that hit countries bordering the Indian oceans was brought live by many citizen journalists who happened to survive it. These recordings and photos were beamed live in satellite television the world over. The Virginia massacre was covered by an OhmyNews reporter named Han Nayoung in collaboration with OhmyNews is one example here.

Today we have citizen journalism coming from varied background for anyone can become a citizen journalist, a student, housewife or working person, a student with journalism background can use this as stepping stone to mainstream journalism, or a retired person wanting his voice heard or an idealist venting out his ideas.

Citizen journalism is the new emerging trend the world over. Are they going to be a threat to professional journalist is a million dollar question? We at the International citizen forum had lengthy discussion about it and many had divergent views about it.

I think it would be unfair to a professional journalist to be seen as being compared with citizen journalist. A professional journalist has the prerequisite qualification and is trained in collecting and presenting news in an accurate, objective and balanced manner. More importantly he is aware of the general guidelines set by the government or press regulatory bodies with regard to ethics, principle and the do and don셳s of journalism. He gets paid for the job and so there comes sense of responsibility and accountability in presenting facts.

Whereas the citizen journalism has no professional qualification in presenting news, the credibility and accuracy of the news at times is questionable. The editor has to depend on trust about the news accuracy coming from citizen journalist and mostly absolve the newspaper of any accountability. The flip side of citizen journalism is that there is tendency of some people misusing it to settle personal score with some one. A politician finding himself at loggerhead with the local press; can misuse citizen journalist to get even or fend off criticism from the press.

Citizen journalism is in a nascent stage and all depends how it evolves and shapes up for the future challenges. Citizen journalism can be a vital missing link in collection and dissipating of news. We can act as support system to the traditional media. Not act as rivals but complement each other. One thing is certain that citizen journalism is here to stay.

©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rajen Nair

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