Monday, 15 November 2010

Will Citizen Journalism Die?

I had a chance to join as a speaker for the national seminar on citizen journalism in Universitas Terbuka (the Indonesia Open University) in early November. The most interesting topic for me is the future of citizen journalism. My paper titled "Will Citizen Journalism Die?" I wrote that paper in October 2010. OhmyNews International was already changed its face by launching its new blog in September 2010.

I can't erase from my mind a statement forwarded by Vincent Maher in 2005, "Citizen Journalism is Dead". That's why I wrote my paper in a title that might sound very pessimistic. Actually I'm not pessimistic about the future of citizen journalism. Voices of citizens are heard now, number of blogs are growing up, social media gave wider alternative to share news. But, the existence of citizen journalism websites seemed at stake as the leading brand of citizen journalism website OhmyNews closed its international section.

I reminded the audience about the high potential of Indonesian citizen to gain their power of voices. This diagram below shows how different the number of internet users in Asia if we see it through the number of internet penetration within the citizen. In the last ten years, the growth of internet penetration in Indonesia is 1,400% while in South Korea it's only 17.1%. As the statistic shown, Indonesia has only 12.3% internet penetration while in South Korea it is already 81.1% internet penetration. Imagine that we can still expect a huge growth of netizen voices in Indonesia. This is actually the same thing (with current data of growth) that I wrote in my first article for OhmyNews International "Indonesia Citizen Journalism on the Rise".

It was a process of how I prefer the use of the word 'reporter' over 'journalist', or even 'blogger' than 'reporter'. Yet, at the same time the word 'reporter' also bring a sense of responsibility over written facts. As a blogger I can choose to see things only through my eyes, but as a reporter I need to enlarge my point of views to see other possibilities. It's true that every citizen is a reporter, no matter how short or how simple the report, it can help to verify the fact. Being a homemaker is already time consuming, writing for citizen journalism websites is my way of contributing myself for my country. In a more global view, it is also my way to build a better world (Read my articles after the International Citizen Reporters' Forum: Toward a Better World, and Citizen Journalism Looks to a Better World)

It is important to make people we know through the cyber space be seen as real. Get to know each other in a real meeting is very important. From the local citizen journalism meetings to the international forum, meeting new friends made us build more communication. It helps us to spare time to visit their articles, blog, or just to say "hi" in their social media's wall. It's also working for other institution to reach out for the citizen. The picture below show visiting the Indonesian navy.

While building a closer community as a nation, we are also building our way to communicate in a more democratic way.

The new media is about rapidity. You can have the same moment captured and aired almost instantly. Learning from OhmyNews International, I knew that it's not as easy as that. New Media will also need indepth reportage to make people interested in reading their news. Mainstream media in Indonesia also came into citizen journalism progress, they made their own citizen journalism outlet. Kompas has Kompasiana, Koran Tempo has Politikana, and recently the Jakarta Post also has i.m.o.. Being a public blog or a citizen journalism website seems not really important for public.

Actually, since 2009 in Indonesia we can feel that social media like facebook and twitter also took the interest of people to express their voices online in quite a big percentage. Indonesian people who has a better oral tradition than written one seemed that social media is an easier way to air their voices. That is why I wrote my article for 'A note from a citizen reporter: Do we still need citizen journalism?' This thought came out two years after my visiting Seoul as a citizen reporter.

In the same year, Indonesia had the case of Prita Mulyasari. She was brought to the court for writing her complain letter about the service of a hospital and its medical team online. This case brought lots of articles from contributors. We can clearly see how people perceived one problem from different angles. I noted that the letter published unedited has different tone with the one published through edited website. The aim of a citizen to publish such a letter was usually to let others take precaution. There were also the possibility that prior complain wasn't answered properly, or not even answered at all. The solidarity came out for Prita came from all directions. Social media, mainstream media, electronic media are all helping citizen to gather their voices, and at the same time gather Coins for Prita. (Read also From a cyber letter into a real prison, Free Prita Mulyasari, Prita is Free...Are We?, and Prita will not be free anymore?). Citizen need to learn about the ethical code and law in uploading their thoughts too.

So, Vincent Maher's points in his Ethics, Epistemology, and Economy also reasonable. Yet, I don't think that it will kill citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is a growing up, evolving, and will still alive as long as it serve its reason to exist: to bring good deeds for citizen. We can help it grow by contributing with our conscience.

The economic stand is one reason for our meeting in Seoul in 2007. It seems that the business model is unsolved yet. In a personal conversation between meetings, Dan Gillmor said that it will be an experiment to go through. The experiment can shut citizen journalism websites, but lesson learned from that experience is already gained.

What is important is now people realized that they aren't just a consumer of news, they are also producer of news. It is obvious in this picture taken from Pesta Blogger 2008, a national bloggers gathering in Indonesia.

So, will citizen journalism die? No, as long as we keep the spirit high!

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