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Journalism diversifies; welcome citizens! Priya Tandon
Unhappy with mainstream media? Complaining about it will not help. Follow some tips, become a citizen journalist and shoulder the responsibility of providing diversified news and views.
THE ALARM OVER the demise of Fourth Estate has been raised time and again. A case in point is the Gulf War in 1991, when the American media had happily surrendered objectivity to juice up the US government’s stakes in Iraq. However, only ruing over the lost credibility of the mainstream media is not enough as there is a gap arising in its wake. You can now lend a hand in instituting another estate that can make up for the loss, a fifth estate called citizen journalism, a phenomenon that is catching up after the backwash of media malfunction.
Citizen journalism, as the name suggests, gives power to the citizens. The reticent common man who may hold views for or against a social practise or a civil law can now express his opinion. And not just views, s/he can happen to have a first hand account of an incident that never got space on news broadsheets or the details of which were too bland to make an enticing package and in turn hike the TRP ratings of a channel.
A pertinent question that a majority of people might want to ask at this juncture is: What/Who is a citizen journalist? A citizen journalist is a common man who wants to educate, inform, inspire, express or entertain - just the way a professional journalist does his job or is expected to do. And that the press barons and gatekeeper editors are not there to skew the reporting is a blessing in this case.
During the catastrophic tsunami, hordes of holidaymakers, who got caught in a wrong place at a wrong time, acted pronto and captured images and sent narratives of the tragedy, making it the most-widely filmed natural disaster. So, that makes the point clear. The system encourages average citizens who at some point find themselves in a telling situation and wish to volunteer to unfold it before the world and to take on the role of a journalist. And that makes for an awesome responsibility. Remember, the most memorable images of the July 11 London bombing were taken by subway riders using cell phones and not by news photographers, who didn’t have time to get there.
Here are some thumb rules to be followed by aspiring citizen journalists:
Keep up with public affairs: Commit to becoming a bit of a newshound. Whether you prefer newspapers, television, the Internet, or radio, always au fait on the latest events. Read opinion magazines to see what other people are thinking about, and create your own list of priorities. Citizen journalists should ideally cover not just what professional journalists cover, as well or better, but also much that they ignore.
Have an unbiased view, share it: It’s of immense importance that citizens hold a view on every issue. Whether for or against, you should always have a fair and objective opinion about everything. Of course, if you have an opinion, others are bound to argue with you about it. This is not a bad thing. Much can be learned from a free and open discourse. It is when citizens tune out and get disconnected that the politicians and the media use free will to its benefits.
Believe in free flow of information: The official mass media often kills an issue or a debate after a certain point of time when it stops boosting its TRP. Citizen journalists can act as a countervailing force for such lapses and excesses in the mainstream media. For instance, the unstoppable paparazzi to Rahul Mahajan came to an abrupt end. A majority of the viewers who received an overdose of the whole incident in the beginning could not comprehend the sudden death of the controversy in the professional media circles.
So, let us all go with the flow. Citizen journalism is not a fad that will flicker out. Instead it will gain ground as a dominant mode of information dissemination in the days to come.