Sunday, 2 October 2011

Citizen Journalism: Sharing in a Professional Way

When writing the title of this posting I don't mean that citizen journalism should make citizen share their stories as professional reporters. I'm actually trying to say that we share stories by handling it professionally. Our main goal should be for the benefit of our public readers, without sacrificing others (including our own professional oaths).

An article was published in Kompasiana about a mother who was chatting with her Blackberry, neglecting her baby, and didn't realize that her baby was suffocated by the baby's own pillow. I was first got the message through my chatting group, before I saw it through Facebook from Kompasiana's wall. It seemed that this article attracted a lot of people, especially those who are involved in Blackberry Group Chatting, so it was spreaded very quickly. Even the author herself was a bit taken aback of the number of people who read her article. She became afraid when her superior in the medical clinic called her to ask her explanation of her writing and made a formal meeting to evaluate that article. Actually she wasn't giving any name in the article, not the name of the baby, the family, nor the name of the medical clinic. For that, she was also accused by some readers as giving a hoax information. Her only intention is to share that sad news so that people could make a self-reflection, to know the bad effect of the techie gadget which is now very popular in Indonesia.

She's lucky because her superior thought that she was not doing anything wrong, but warned her to keep remembering the medical oath to keep the secret of their patients. This is why I said that citizen reporters do need to handle their writings professionally. Citizen who writes in his/her own professional topic should remember how to handle the news with their professional ethics. Even for those who aren't in the professional life, we should also use our own conscience in writing out news like that.

Prita Mulyasari's case should be a way to learn something. It's not about being in prison (although it's enough to scare people to write out their cries), but about the high need to have an editor who will help those writers who aren't familiar with journalism ethics. Without the name of the hospital, it could sounded as a hoax, but to open it clearly could also end one's career. For me, Prita's letter is an important letter to be printed out for public. By hiding that fact, those who work in the medical institution which should make hospitality as their first tool (considering that the name is Hospital) could act as they like, neglecting the right of a patient to be treated professionally and to receive a real information about his/her illness. The problem came from the way that private letter publicized for public consumption without editing it with journalistic ethic in mind.

In the case of Kompasiana's writer, Titi, there were questions about how fast she uploaded her news. One important aspect for journalist in this internet era is the rapidity. However, our daily schedule, our daily responsibilities might not always in cooperation with the time needed to write some news as soon as it happened. Citizen journalism is one aspect, have the need to encourage people to write up his/her story and share it with public. Yet, another writer also questioned the way handling the case. should be able to handle the case as the way professional journalism should react. I agree with this writer. The only way to build a good partnership between citizen journalism and professional journalism is by giving a good example in working. Check and recheck should be the priority. Language chosen should also be very careful to give an objective news for the public.

I think this is the learning process. How a citizen can join as a part of citizen journalism, and how the journalistic world can be improved by the process of learning together between citizen and professionals. This way we can have better professionals in their own specific professions, plus... the ability to share out a bit of their professions for the sake of the profession itself and the benefit for public.