Think journalism out of the box

Citizen journalism, also known as participatory journalism or democratic journalism, has given the power to citizens to highlight the problems they are facing. With the rise in the use of social media, citizen journalism has been tremendously growing at a faster pace. Internet citizen journalism, which started in the late 90s with blogs, has now emerged as a radical challenge for the traditional, institutional and professional mainstream journalism.
Prior to social media, citizen journalists acted as a helping hand to the mainstream media, as newsmen. However, in the early years, before the profession of journalism was created, citizens were the only journalists who would gather news, write, print and distribute among people. It was only after the first American civil war (1861-65) that journalism came out as a profession with the opening of its course in colleges and universities across the globe. Gradually, newspapers flourished in every part of the world.
In India, the first newspaper named Bengal Gazette started in 1780 during the East India Company’s rule. It had fearlessly criticised the loot and exploiting policies of the company. With time, many printing houses came into being which played a significant role in India’s freedom struggle.
Since its inception, journalism has always been an honest profession, working for the people. But amidst all these, with its growing competition, some printing houses emerged, carrying biased news, imaginary information, for which a new term, ‘yellow journalism’, was coined. It still prevails in some sections of the media.
The scenario is the same in the case of broadcast media. With the advancement in satellite TV technology, many news channels emerged and some have pathetically crossed the barriers of decency and ruined the independence of this noble craft. With the growing competition, most news channels nowadays violate the fundamental ethics of the profession to gain TRPs. Sensationalising silly contents, politically biased news, jingoistic, chauvinistic and illogical reportage are what we get to watch generally in most TV news channels. We see some television anchors behaving like the Chief Justice of India in their shows.
Conscious citizens have started to lose confidence in these media houses. Majority of the people often express displeasure with their reports. Silly issues with fake stories rant on TV channels creating turmoil in the society. In a democracy, they are expected to play an unbiased role and reflect the opinion and voice of the unheard.
With the use of social media, many citizens have come forward to spread awareness among fellow citizens against all these, disseminating genuine news with sound contents. Even some professional journalists have joined the masses with their own YouTube channels and blogs in bringing about a change in the prevailing system.
Also, many fact-checking websites have been created by some passionate groups. Willing citizens, in such ways, can contribute for a good cause. This certainly takes the profession back to where it had started.
Well, it wouldn’t be legitimate to generalise the entire media industry this way, be it print or broadcast media. There exist some media houses which still consider themselves as the fourth pillar of democracy. Their service to the nation has always been laudable and is against every external force. But in today’s time, the freedom of press or media has been seriously undermined by influential forces. Journalists doing genuine work are either being tried to influence or threatened to death. Assaults on them are often witnessed in many places in India.
In the prevailing era of social media, this form of journalism will encourage people to raise their voice and participate in social and political changes. At the same time, its misuse — for instance the spread of fake news — would cause harm to society. Citizen journalism, though may not meet every aspect of institutional journalism, will popularly emerge to stand against the evils of the society.

(Contributed by Karun Lama)

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