Why Citizen Journalism
One way of answering the question, why citizen journalism, is to ask why not. Another way to answer is to go into the history of journalism and find out if and when did journalism ring fence itself into becoming a profession and demand barriers to entry? A third way would be remember that the constitutional protection enjoyed by journalism is but an extension, at least in the Indian context, of the right to freedom of speech and expression. A fourth way would be to suggest the poverty of mainstream media and speak of alternatives. But there is a fifth way to think about this.
We need citizen journalism because we need active citizenship. Being a citizen is neither a profession nor a calling. Citizenship is our membership card to this community that we call our country. There may be many methods by which we can claim our rights to be a member. But once we choose to become one, and there is indeed nothing that stops one from opting out, and stay on as a member, we need to exercise our membership.
Indeed we give up the day-to-day management to people we elect, and periodically we ask them to submit accounts, clean up the drains, ensure pathways, erect boundaries, and the like. But this committee serves at our will, and it is upon us to make certain that they are not asleep at the watch. How do we do so if we choose not to exercise our rights as members, as citizens.
Working this citizenship is a daily task that we need to do. If we do not, who will? It is our membership, and this is not a responsibility that we can pass on. Each one of us has a stake. If there is something good that is happening around us, we need to share it with others. If there is something amiss around us, we need to tell others. If there are ideas that we have, we need to run them by others. We all deserve to be active participants, to be active citizens, and to be good story tellers.
Our silence does not wish away what is not proper. Our silence does not add to the good that is being done somewhere. Citizen Journalism is precisely about speaking up. With ideas, with information, with stories of the communities in which we live.
It is not necessarily about being muckrackers. It is not necessarily about being agents of change. It is not necessarily about being white knights. It is about keeping each other informed. And such information will ensure that the common good will ensue. Not as a matter of natural law will the common weal result, but because it is through these exchanges that we will come to know how we are faring, where we doing well and where we are letting ourselves down. Citizen Journalism is about ensuring that we swap good stories, meaningful stories, and we do it on our own terms, and in our own language.
The Citizen Journalism programme started out as a weekend programme stretching eight weeks in Mumbai. It was launched in August 2010. Over the last couple of years, Citizen Journalism Workshops have been held in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Goa, Hyderabad and Pune.
We are in the process of introducing the Citizen Journalism programme online to make it accessible across the country.
Please visit Citizens Report for more on the programme.