COMMENT | The urban-based commercial media cannot possibly represent all the different voices of the people. More citizens are keeping an eye on what is going on in their communities, and passing on that information to news outlets to do follow-ups will, in the end, benefit the news-consuming public.
Citizen-generated content can, in theory, fill the gaps forged by decades of politically correct mainstream media reporting. In practice, however, “reporting by the people for the people” in the Malaysian context has to go beyond just being a channel to publicly shame deviant behaviour or announcing ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
It comes down to whose stories we trust more – those produced by the unpaid, untrained reporters or by experienced professionals.
Public trust in citizen-generated contents is determined by the quality of the reporting and depth of its contents. The reporter’s capacity for thorough research, fact-checking and verifying sourced opinions to confront the many falsehoods of the day will ultimately determine the quality of the stories. This applies to both the professional and the amateur journalist.
Citizen journalism has acquired numerous descriptors. It is touted as the alternative to traditional media. Views on its assumed ‘revolutionary’ impact on traditional journalism range from the optimistic to the less sanguine.
Over the years, I have followed numerous citizen journalism websites worthy of the name, such as the Independent Media Centre and The Global Voices. A Google search lists the many citizen journalism projects in countries where the plights of the grassroots are under-reported or ignored by the commercial media. The Citizen provides an example of how a citizen reporting initiative gave voice to India’s forgotten people – the Dalits and Adivasis.