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Citizen Reporters vs Journalists?

Citizen Reporters vs Journalists?

by kenneth ()

By Jaime Lim

BANGKOK, Jan 21 (Asian Eye/IPS Asia-Pacific) - Today’s media-savvy blogging generation is giving professional journalists in Asia a run for their money, as audiences generate -- and accept -- citizen-generated content

Where journalists used to be the gatekeepers between the generators of news on one hand, and audiences on the other, Internet has changed this traditional equation. Sources can now go straight to their audiences, and audiences can now do their own reporting – with their own accounts of events, photos, videos – or convey or post feedback to news reports.

Replacing the limitations and definition of mass communication through traditional media, interactivity now plays a key component in new media.

But while this has opened more avenues for free expression, it has not always been welcomed by ‘traditional’ journalists, some of whom say citizen reporting is not actually reporting. Others however say it is time to accept that reporting is no longer a monopoly of journalists.

“Professionals have invested a lot in what we do; and so when citizen journalists come along and are attracting much attention, the professionals see that as a threat,” Andrew Jordan, technology reporter for ‘The Wall Street Journal Online’, said at a panel discussion during the media conference organised by the East-West Centre from Jan. 21-23.

“Citizen journalism removes the distance between news producers and consumers; there is no top down mentality anymore, he added at the conference, entitled ‘Changing Dynamics in the Asia Pacific: Power Politics, Economic Might, Media Challenges’.

South Korea’s OhMyNews is well-known in the region for the success in citizen reporting and being a force in the last general elections, when reporters – many of students and ordinary people – discussed which candidates did not merit the public’s votes.

Online media in South Korea, which has the world’s 6th biggest Internet population, has also developed into a powerful tool as the biggest influence on Korean culture, says Yi Hyun Kang, staff writer of local news in Pressian, a Korean Internet news service. “Today, all online newspapers or portals in South Korea allow readers to leave comments and replies.”

But the debate around citizen reporting remains far from over, and the tenor of discussions at the Jan. 21 panel discussion reaffirmed this.

Ever since the first blog appeared on the Internet in 1994, these online diaries are now increasingly being used as alternative platforms to voice out viewpoints that were once silenced by the lack of opportunity of reaching a mass audience.

A quick search on video sharing website Youtube brings up a multitude of amateur clips, mostly taken with cameras or phones with video recording capabilities. Often, witnesses to news events -- like Sep. 11 attacks at the World Trade Centre or the 2007 protests in Burma as well as the September crackdown by the military recent protests in Myanmar -- may post clips that were taken real time at the scene, before any television crew arrives.

Among the improvements citizen-generated journalism contributes are the diversity of viewpoints that brings up refreshing perspectives, criticism of the media when it fails to main objective, and the creation of public dialogue on key issues.

The lack of geographical and geopolitical boundaries makes for an exciting environment, quipped Aaron Quinn, assistant professor of journalism, California State University Chico. But “there’s the question of credibility that arises from the lack of qualification and knowledge, absence of fact checks, hasty publishing decisions and ethics”, he conceded.

Yi cited an example of how a distraught South Korean actress Lee Eun-joo committed suicide after online comments about her alleged plastic surgery drove her to despair.

But rather than fight the inevitable shift of media habits, Singapore’s Alex Au, one of 10 bloggers behind www.yawningbread.org, suggests a complementary relationship between journalists and citizen reporters toward media convergence.

Andrew added: “There’s still a hunger for high quality reportage and productions. As citizen journalism becomes more prominent, the professionals will serve as shamans, if you will, as guides to the citizens. Something that is common throughout the notion of terminology is trust – and we’ve got to keep the trust our readers have in us.” (END/IPSAP/AEYE/JL/JS/08)


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