The truth is that where one feels threatened, one is urged to dilute and dismiss the importance of their counterparts. This is the very battle citizen activists, better known as citizen journalists, are trying to rise above.
The concept and practice of citizen journalism is one that is yet to be recognised and appreciated. Not only by its audience but as well as the professional media world. I for one have been a leading advocate for the termination of this notion. However with in depth understanding one truly comes to understand the use for this cause.
Courtney C. Radsch defines citizen journalism “as an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as a response to shortcomings in the professional journalistic field, that uses similar journalistic practices but is driven by different objectives and ideals and relies on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism.
Journalists and the press many-a-times have been described as the watchdog and gatekeeper of news. What many fail to see is that the very existence of the concept of citizen journalism is some what an indication that some where along the line journalists have failed their audience.
In a blog post entitled ‘The power of Citizen Journalism to disrupt media apathy in South Africa using digital technology’ , Vanessa’s blog highlights the shortfalls of South African media in covering the success of the first Grammy award winning album of local musicians Wouter Kellerman and Ricky Kej.
“In a country where media are self-profilers and haters of anything that can’t build their careers or advance their work, we need to start hunting in packs.”
Based on the experience of Vanessa and her findings in the coverage of stories, South African media has built a hierachal systerm that sadly, finds no value in the success of their own products. This is the very driving force of many others like her to make their stories heard through alternative platforms.
With such mishaps taking place in media, it is no wonder citizens have taken it upon themselves to serve the country in delivering news.
Often when an individual or a body are in a place of authority much like SA media corporates, they become comfortable in their position and lose sight of the significance of remaining on the ground, on the same level as their followers. Respectively that same body of authority is often shaken and awakened when their supporters look to alternative providers. This is currently what is happening in the media world.
In any field of work, humility towards the public and those below is of great fundament. This is what citizen activists recognise amd value. With the community of citizen activists rapidly increasing, take for instance the initiative started by Grocott’s Mail, it is with no doubt that the ground that SA media stands on is bound to be shaken.
Grocott’s mail is one of the first projects that has invested in the molding and shaping of citizen journalists. The worries one has of credibility of sources, objectivity and neutrality in their stories is no longer a worry.
‘Of course the quality of the articles is debatable so all articles are moderated before publishing – we will make sure the facts are correct so Grocott’s can keep on being the trustworthy title it has always been’ says Elvira van Noort.
The field of citizen journalism is one that still to be refined but in its growth is taken the public by storm.