AN INTERVIEW WITH ALOK VERMA
By Vani Mittal, PG Student, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
CITIZEN JOURNALISM: CONCEPT AND PRACTICES
1. How would you define the concept of ‘citizen journalism’?
Citizen journalism is an opportunity for all those who are on the streets, with the power to report and write whatever they see is newsy or something which is not reported and covered by regular journalists. The modern technology has enabled these people – or street journalists as I would call them – to have handy tools and become a support system to the existing media organization.
So, citizen journalism in nutshell, is a power which has been provided to people who spot events, or incidents worth reporting, thus getting the opportunity to reach out to the masses with the help of existing media organizations.
2. In what ways media landscape has changed with the practice of citizen journalism?
The landscape has changed completely. Today, the traditional media is actually dependent on citizen journalists or street journalists, as I call them. When any event takes places, the traditional journalist is not present there but the street journalist is who, through his phone captures a photograph and note down basic details about the incident – how did it happen, when and where did it happen, which parties are involved as either the victim or accused.
A person by the virtue of his presence at the time of the incident he is able to collect information and becomes a contributor of the information as a street journalist and when the same information is shared with the regular journalist he verifies it further, adds details, and polishes it using the journalistic craft for publication. The only missing link is that the citizen journalist does not have any specific media institution to go and report it formally.
But today with the advent of social media and available tools, the street journalist uses the social media platform to which he is already a subscriber and he posts the information there. So, now with citizen journalism in practice, a traditional journalist at his desk goes through social media platforms to find some useful news, which has been published by the street journalists, The traditional journalist fishes out the information and further develops the same information to convert the same information into a more credible news report.
3. How do media organizations engage with the information provided by citizen journalists?
The street journalists have been able to provide traditional journalists with certain leads to develop a bigger news report. Since a traditional journalist is much better equipped to expand the simple information into a bigger information by tapping his sources which a street journalist cannot do as he is not trained for that.
4. Can citizen journalism be an aid to deal with malpractices like paid news?
This question does not arise today. Citizen or street journalist today is much more vocal in providing information. The information which was under wraps and would not come out due to certain reasons, today it cannot be blocked.
5. Would community radios/TV shows or blogs by academic institutions enhance the practice of citizen journalism?
Of course they will help in making the aspiring journalist understand the difference between information and news. They would train them to have a sniffing nose for news from different places and develop the gathered leads into bigger stories.
6. What are the bottlenecks for citizen journalism to flourish in India? What are the possible solutions to same?
There are no bottlenecks. As long as the technology is accessible, more people would be using it for unraveling truth, for sharing information, for bringing certain facts to the fore in the public domain. As per the latest data released by the telecom ministry of government of India, 96 crore people have mobile phones and around 34 percent people have phones with internet connection. So, as more and more people are becoming technology savvy, get access to more internet connection, the street journalists will continue to flourish.
7. What are the prospects of citizen journalism in our country?
As earlier stated, the power now is in the hands of people. This power which was available in the hands of a few people has come in the hands of a large section of society. Therefore the real people, the real power, the real issues, the real dissemination is happening because of the ease of technology, marking the beginning of real journalism.