We hear the term ‘citizen journalism’ almost everywhere. But to be precise, what is it ? Jay Rosen, a famous journalism Guru defines it:
“When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another, that’s citizen journalism.”
According to him ‘the people formerly known as audience‘:
“are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.”
The audience has now transformed to an independent media. We have now our printing press – the blog; our own radio station, the podcasting, our own TV station, the vlog; our own gallery, the photoblogs; our own alerts, the twitter feeds and so on.
One may ask is that a problem? Who will be the audience when there too many speakers? The time has changed. We don't need to subscribe to TV guides anymore. We have on-demand and distributed contents, search engines and rss feeds to select what we need. Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press says:
“The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place.”
Yes we don't quote them or us as audiences anymore but as users in this era of participatory media. Here the users also participate in debates, submit comments to the author using forms or blogs as reaction.
There is also a fine line between citizen media and citizen journalism. “Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content” (Wikipedia) which includes a message, an information, a rhetoric, not only some personal diary entries.
Now why do we need our rhetorics to be shared with others? Do we need to preach our ideas? React to what is happening in the community or in the world? Do we need the activism? Do we need to be proactive in the expression of our opinions? Yes, if we believe in democracy and freedom of expression we need that.
The use of such rhetoric was first seen in as early as the fifth century B.C. in Athens. A democratic governance was emerging on the basis that all citizens had an equal right and duty to participate in their own government.
“To do so effectively, they needed to be able to speak in public. Decisions on public policy under the democracies were made in regularly held assemblies composed of adult male citizens; and, as in New England town meetings, anyone who wished could speak.” – On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, Book by Aristotle, George A. Kennedy
This is probably as much true in today's world. We feel the need to share with others our successes, our plights, our threats, our challenges in the community as a member of it. Almost all of us feel a regular need to persuade someone of something, to defend our actions, and to organize our thoughts so that others will understand our point of view. We may never be engaged in a public career or may never make a speech to a large audience but with citizen media we have the freedom to express ourselves to those who want to listen.
Not only rhetoric and civic discourse are necessary for engaging in a meaningful democratic process, but these are required also to change things in our communities.
Look how the various Rising Voices projects are embracing citizen journalism and digital activism:
* The Neighborhood Diaries in Kolkata India are teaching youths from marginalized community to be citizen journalists, a status which they feel very proud of when they are on the streets interviewing someone and sharing it with the world.
* Some of the participants of Hiperbarrio project in Colombia wrote really informative articles like what Xady wrote on Colombia's medical service and we saw how the community came together to help when one of the participant wrote about Suso's plight.
* FOKO in Madagascar saw some brilliant pieces of citizen journalism and activism when Diana blogged about a project that helped cure a Kamba baby, Avylavitra wrote about the devastations of cyclone Ivan that devastated Madagascar, which was under reported in the international media.
* Cristina Quisbert, a member of Voces Bolivianas project is a perfect example of how individual citizen journalism from an ignored indigenous community can make an impact worldwide with her brilliant works.
* Women bloggers of Nari Jibon in Bangladesh uses video to show how they celebrate Bengali new year. Something an International TV channel will rarely show.
* Pablo Fores of the Ceibal Project describes how the OLPC laptops can make an impact in the most disadvantageous areas of Uruguay. A sixth grade student analyzes the performance of the OLPC laptop and shares with the world – that is the beauty of citizen journalism.
These are examples of what the Rising Voices projects are doing in the field of citizen journalism.