Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is It Journalism?

by Suresh Acharya


What is citizen journalism? Is it the writing about the people or the opinion of the people? Or the people themselves being journalists? Or to run a community media is citizen journalism? My mind is thundering with these questions the last couple of days.

Journalism itself is a voice for the voiceless. In practice, that is not always happening anywhere. Loud voices are being covered in most of the media in the world. BBC covers the statement of President Obama. CNN glorifies the voice of him. Aljazeera is always looking for the statement of Bin Laden.

Ordinary people are not in the news until they are killed, abducted or hijacked. Even in hijacking news, the lead does not start with the people. Media do not say 145 people are being captive at the first line. Who lost their lives is less important to the media than who killed them. So the question of citizen journalism is who has the values.

Issues of the people or the opinion of the people--which is citizen journalism? If it is issues, development journalism is there. The beat reporting is there. That might be the economic beat, social beat, cultural beat and so on. If the answer is NO, opinion on the issues of the people are always used as the sources in the news report.

Ventilation of opinion has been in practice from the very beginning of the journalism- in newspapers. The Letters to the Editor page is created to fullfill the purpose of ‘citizen journalism.’

Now the question is raised, is a blog citizen journalism? Journalism demands some sorts of standards. You can say at the very least ABC- Accuracy, Balance and Credibility. As so many events are happening in the world and it is not possible to cover those all, the opinions of each and every person is almost impossible to cover in the media. So we use the word newsworthy to be selective on the events or the issues.

Right to expression covers the freedom of press in some countries. But some countries have specified the freedom of press separately. Whether it is separated or not, these two things are different. The first one is the right of each and every citizen. They can speak anything on any issues anywhere without any interference of the government. But freedom of press is not the freedom of journalists only.

Media is a tool of expression of the people. Journalists themselves do not express their views. What they express is the views of the people. Again the question is: do the media cover the right opinion of the right people?

Journalism is a practice. There are many lapses to address and many things to change. But in the name of change, we cannot compromise on the basic standards. Can we?

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