Saturday, 28 April 2007

What is Citizen Journalism?

I’ve just read Steve Outing’s post in Poynter Online, I do not agree if the term citizen journalism means citizen practicing amateur journalism.

May be I am an amateur journalist, but there are a lot of qualified journalists contributed in the citizen journalism website. I do think that citizen journalism is the best term. Even the pro became a citizen when they wrote out their stories for a citizen journalism website. We are all the same in spirit, posting an article as the citizen of the world, globally. We posted our views locally as the citizen of our country. We will be differentiated by the way we write it out.

We posted our article driven by the same idealism, to change something, to introduce ourselves, to introduce our countries. At least it is the way I did it for OMNI and

I sometimes contribute to the mainstream media, but I am not known yet. My articles usually appear on opinion or views. Mainstream media need your opinion if you are “somebody”. Being a homemaker would not make you countable. You’ve got to strive ahead to give your opinion (except for the letter to the editor). Sometimes people even had prejudice against “an amateur”. If you write something they will think you are “selling” them.

Writing in a citizen journalism website is really different. Writing for OMNI and cost me around US$100 on internet last month. That’s doubled the money I’ve got from being a subject teacher in an elementary school. Instead of getting money (I’ll get some from OMNI, yet it won’t pay my internet expenses) I was spending money. I took it as my tutoring expense. I do not really get direct tutoring from, but growing up with them and seeking public reaction through my articles there I could learn a lot about writing for public, marketing your idea, and tolerate different point of views. I’m also learning to be careful not to jump into my own conclusion. I heard Harry Dharsono (a well known Indonesian designer) said in a talk show recently:” People learned from mistakes”. I did learn how and why I made that mistake in writing through citizen journalism website.

When I first wrote for I found out the outlet I need. I sometimes frustrated by the long waiting from the mainstream media, and it ended only by getting rejection when the issue was already gone with the label “out of date”. My heart was really broken if later on somebody else write almost the same thing in the same media (and get published!). Sometimes I do not really care about the writing fee as long as my voice is heard. Yet, I learnt through how the same idea could be popped up into different heads on the same time. In citizen journalism, your submitting time is the important key of pioneering. However the content and the way you express your idea will affect readers’ vote.

Something that triggered me more are the comments from its readers. It really lit up my writing spirit. It is nice knowing that my point of views is taken the right way, or to be able to correct your readers misunderstanding. It is also a way to implement the real democracy.

Yet, I am afraid that my presence in will label me as “amateur”, which will make me more difficult to submit my views through mainstream media. Indonesians are still very dependent on the conventional media, to educate Indonesian people we do need the help of the conventional media.
It’s a good thing though that conventional media is also peeking into the citizen journalism website. Yet, like a professional journalist collaborator stated in his article in the mainstream media, is not a media with high standard of editing. That was the reason behind my entering OMNI. I need to gain more skill to become a real citizen journalist. I underline the word journalist as I do lack journalism background.

Joining OMNI opened my horizon, as I do need to think as a citizen of the global world. What would people wanted to know from Indonesia if they don’t even know the name? Yes, sometimes Bali is more famous than its country. People know or heard about Bali but don’t really know where Indonesia is. Is it near Bali?

I think that is the basic of citizen journalism. Acted as a good citizen, and delivered information to help building the nation. Being in the international citizen journalism website make me think as a citizen of the global world.

Serving my local citizen journalism website is to serve the Indonesian people and bring them to know the global world through a global perspective. Serving the international citizen journalism website is to help putting Indonesia into the global world through an objective point of view. Foreigner could have study Indonesia, but sometimes we are the one who experience and know better the content of our own country (see my post titled “Why Indonesia Matters, Why Panca Sila matters”). Together with other citizen journalists I believe we could at least make the world a better place!

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