Saturday, 10 May 2008

Will citizen journalism websites survive?

I've read from the daily Kompas (Thursday, 8th May 2008) that the online Skoeps from the Netherland is going to end their journey. The sustainable business model for a citizen journalism website was the topic we were discussing in Seoul. It seems to be difficult to gain it in this capitalistic world.

I was actually praising Ohmynews International (despite the fact that I would not gain a good sum to cover my monthly internet expenses from them anymore) because they were brave enough to cut the contributor's cybercash after hearing the complain from the international reporters about the low rate of cybercash. I realized that cutting the cybercash would probably cut down articles but those who continue sending their articles are really doing it out of their idealism.

I am a bit busy with my own family problems. The twins are going to enter elementary school while they aren't able to read yet. Something important for the private elementary school here. Why don't I choose a public school? Because I'm not sure if their level of competency in the public school is high enough. That would be a problem in entering the university as their foundation is not strong enough.

The economic crises of the global world is also hit Indonesians. Education is also very expensive now. At the same time, people are now targeting their children to be able to compete in the global world. Education is very important to gain the same level of competency in the fast changing global world. Our family expenses with three children will be focused mostly on their education. Perhaps that was the reason people in the West used to prefer less children. I don't know exactly how the social security works for them, neither do I know their tax payment. I only heard foreign people grumbling on high rate of taxes' expenses.

I think for the middle class who are blessed with the capability to connect to the internet, the citizen journalism website can be a place to take out all the daily stressing problems as our voices. Those who aren't lucky enough might have more problems but can't aired it as time and financial reason could blocked them.

I've seen some good contributors disappeared from wikimu because their new work post did not give them the possibility to do a regular browsing. Or may be they don't even have access to the internet anymore. There will be a lot of reasons. It could also be that we,who blog, (as accused by some friends) are people without real work.

Citizen journalism website for me is an added version of a blog community. If a blog community is gaining us a chance to meet other bloggers, then the citizen journalism is giving us the additional benefit: gaining editorial help to enhance our writing style. In wikimu, it also helps reader to be able to build their confidence to start writing. Unlike the international school curricula, the Indonesian school did not really train their students to express themselves through writing. We were not even encourage to express different opinion from the teachers. I'm glad it is now getting better and better with more schools encouraging their students to write freely. There are also a lot of young writers, some were spotted through their blogs. I'm surely hope that the citizen journalism will also be the bridge to the increasing writing habit in the younger generation.

We do have professionals sharing their voices through wikimu. That's a good support as people would not value citizen journalism as the product of amateurs. We are supporting each others.

I found that our news in wikimu were also helping the mainstream media journalists to get ideas of topic. And now they need to have a more comprehensive research to present to their readers.

From the three deadly E's that were pointed out by Vincent Maher, I think the worst enemy is the economy. The citizen journalism website like wikimu should try hard to gain their tools to be able to stand independently in business.

As people enter citizen journalism websites they will need to learn about ethics, and if we are not only targeting ourselves in hardnews...then we can also gain "a tool for reflection and crystallisation of truths". The persistent value of the message should also force the writer to be more careful in writing objective news for citizen journalism websites.

Citizen journalism website can also be the place to fight plagiarism in the mainstream media. The online and persistent article will help us to help each other preventing our work being taken and published in other people's account. A case happened to a contributor from wikimu, Ukirsari. A picture from her blog is being used as a picture in the advertising column in a national daily with different credit title. She did discover it herself, but at least we do know to be more careful with copy right. Those who work in the media should always be more careful and be more professional in doing their job. I regret that they did not apologize directly after it was caught. It is also surprised me that a giant mainstream media could let the staff print "Ralat Foto" (misplacement picture or/and with/without credit title) instead of "apology to Ukirsari for misplacement of credit title". Taking pictures from someone's blog is not an ordinary misplacement of pictures or credit title, even if they will pay it afterward I think they still need to apologize.

I did pointed out some letters from reader's letters (of mainstream medias) that also pointed out the publication of the same article in two different medias in my article for One of the letters mentioned two articles which had the same content but with different name of writer. That reader needed a verification from the Editorial whether the writer send his article to two different publication under different names. The real writer of the article did not even aware about that reader's letter. He found my article while browsing, and wrote a comment to verify it. He was also writing in his blog about it. He is credible enough, perhaps that was the reason that the editorial did not even call him to clarify it. Personally I think cases like these are important to point out so that writers learn to respect others' intellectual rights. It could help the society to build a real professional environment. It could also be the seed to grow our awareness in fighting piracy. Right now perhaps most Indonesian are attached to the pirated version which is of course cheaper than the original version mostly due to our low rate shopping capability. With some help (free software from Bill Gates as the promised example) I do hope we are able to do it step by step.

Will citizen journalism websites survive? I don't know, but we need to support it to success. With a good collaboration between the citizen reporters (or bloggers, even the anonymous one perhaps?!) and the professional journalists, and also by retaining the need to check and rechecked fact before reporting it as news, we do need this citizen journalism websites. How they will survive the economy factor? Hope the administrators are smart enough for that...


ukirsari said...

mbak retty, thank you so much for this valuable posting and took my case as a description.
someday they will read by their own through the net and regret, "why we did this carelessly and without any etiquette and manner."
they should learn more and more! and pay respect for sure :)

Anonymous said...

actually i found a new cit journalist site called You Scoop It and it actually tries to teach people to become better citizen journalists...

its not bad really...i liked it

Retty N. Hakim said...

Thank you for dropping by...
I'm still struggling with my time management at the moment, so keeping only one local and one international cit J websites is already a big commitment...