Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Citizen Journalist reporting on natural disasters or calamities or accidents

These are unpredictable affairs – no one can forecast where there would be an earthquake or where a fire would engulf a shopping complex at the dead of night or when the flood waters would breach the dam and enter the villages. Neither can one anticipate any major accident or disaster like a running express train ramming into a stationary one or of terrorist attacks.

An alert Citizen Journalist should be prepared to move to the site at the first opportunity to obtain first hand information that he can supply to the real-time mainstream media.

While reporting he has to bear in mind the following general guidelines –

Whether help was delayed
Whether the rescue teams had come with proper equipment
Whether the medical treatments were prompt
Whether NGOs responded and how the locals extended assistance

The CJ should discuss with the persons who are affected as well as the administration on how the relief amounts would be calculated and distributed
The CJ should support all statements with photographs (videos preferable) as well as facts and figures.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Citizen Journalist as a watchman

Yes, this best sums up the work of a CJ. He always keeps his eyes open to happenings around him. Like – when on the road he sees people who flout the basic norms of safety while foot or on vehicles. The regular machinery of the law keeps watch on those who over speed or break traffic rules but to create awareness on safe walking and driving you have to be alert and observe whatever appears to be wrong –

See if the drivers of two wheeler wear helmets, if there is a pillion rider, he or she also should wear the head gear to protect the head in case of accidents – there should not be a third person. The driver must possess a valid driving license as well have all documents related to the vehicle with him.

Check out those driving four wheelers – they must fasten their seat belts; they should have all documents of the vehicle as well the papers and be in possession of valid driving license. They should also have a first aid kit with them.

Watch out for pedestrians – they must use the footpaths or sidewalks, they must cross roads at the designated location identified by the zebra crossings, and they must queue up in an orderly manner at the bus stops. Where there is an encroachment of the footpaths or sidewalks, bring that to the notice of civic authorities. Support your facts with photographs and statements of locals for ore authenticity and better effects.

In case you happen to see any accident taking place, you should not hesitate to offer help. If it pertains to a hit and run case or rash driving, note down the registration number of the vehicle and inform the police.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

While covering playgrounds for kids

Children and playgrounds are interrelated. The open spaces are vanishing and, the modern concept is to reserve tiny plots where the local kids can come to play and enjoy the bounties of nature to the extent available. Similar places are also a part of apartment blocks. These are usually reserved for the kids of the occupants.

When a Citizen Journalist wants to carry out an assignment on playgrounds of kids, he has to approach it with confidence. It is a difficult proposition and the journalist must have a pleasing personality to influence those associated with the management of the facility.

Most important aspect are the safety and security - those who are responsible for the maintenance of these playgrounds have to observe plenty of dos and don’ts so that the kids can play in safe surroundings.

The swings, ladders, seesaws should be rigid

In case of water bodies, these should be suitably protected

If the water bodies are large enough for swimming, there has to be trained persons who should oversee

The greenery should be devoid of weeds and poisonous plants

There has to be restrictions on throwing litter and dirtying the surroundings, litter bins should be placed at regular intervals

The gates must be guarded so that unwanted people do not enter

There should be swift communication network between the guards and managers as well as link up with the local law machinery

The parents or guardians of rowdy kids should be kept updated on the mischief they play.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When the CJ reports on kid related topics …

Kids mean schools, playgrounds, and illness apart from unbridled freedom. They can be grouped into categories depending from where they come and how they live. Those at the high end would normally be out of reach of ordinary CJs – so it s advisable not to pursue that line. The bulk of kids who attract attention are those who are in the middle income groups – these parents have high expectations from their offspring and the market is large enough to attract the innumerable products that are meant exclusively for kids. So are their problems …

Select the areas surrounding the school – the free availability of fast foods and eatables that are sold in the open are veritable sources of illness – there are usually restrictions on what can be sold openly and how such products should be sold. Check the actual situation and note down those who do not adhere to the instructions. Take photographs, meet and talk with the parents and the children, – get their opinions …. meet the vendors who flout the norms, also identify those who do follow – highlight the latter – it makes them feel better and simultaneously encourages the erring ones to improve … …

These would do for starters …

Monday, April 20, 2009

What can a CJ report?

Let the journalists of the mainstream concentrate of political leaders and the movie folks – that opens up the field for the Citizen journalists because there are so many other relevant topics that are crying out for attention. The Citizen Journalist is free to report on any subject that pleases him – it could be any irritant of his neighborhood or on everyday happenings that have a bearing on how we live and how we have to continuously fend off troubles and fears. Some examples will help to understand the philosophy behind what defines a citizen journalist of a high order.

Corruption is thee in all walks of life – practical applications of how the corrupt operate is an aspect that can be highlighted – for example catching a corrupt person red handed when he is accepting illegal gratification –

Or – show to others how the local corporator neglects his territory – the unhealthy surroundings, heaps of uncleared garbage, stray dogs, beggars, the bad condition of roads, the taps that run dry, lack of bus shelters … the list could be a very long one.

Then there are special drives to capture the sad plight of children in juvenile homes and senior citizens in homes for elders. There is a gulf of difference between what they advertise and what they actually give. The CJs could zero in on such subjects that people want to know about.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Citizen Journalists never say die

I pride myself on being a very dogmatic and determined individual. I have never shied from any task, no matter how impossible it might seem. Therefore, when I came to know of this fantastic offer for freelance Citizen Journalists, I sat up. The target date was 15th April 2009 and I learnt about it only on the 20th March 2009. I had hardly 25 days in which to get at least 10,000 hits to become eligible for the incentive of $100 … well, believe it or not, I very nearly did manage to get it. My 180 odd reports received nearly 9,000 hits … hopefully, the website would extend the target date and my $100 would arrive. This would be the beginning of a new association because the website does not stop at 10,000 hits – the incentive continues in multiples of 10,000 … if you want to know more, please send me a mail –

an update – the last date for eligibility has been extended to 1st may 2009 – I should get my $100 after all very soon …

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Qualities of a good Citizen Journalist

The Citizen Journalist has to report a happening and, obviously, the packaging counts a lot. If the packaging does not strike the viewer or the reader as attractive, the report would not serve any purpose except to add to a whole lot of unwanted experiments. It would earn poor marks, people would ignore it. But that is not what the CJ wants – he wants his report to generate a feeling in the minds of those who matter and might be instrumental in bringing about changes in attitude of how things are tackled. The following points could be considered to be the qualities of a good Citizen Journalist:

Be honest, accept mistakes
Protect your sources
Think up juicy headers
Tackle issues that will help you influence the thinking of people and gain readership
Accepts brickbats with equal grace as you would the bouquets

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Websites of Citizen Journalism

Fox News, CBS, Jump On Citizen Journalism Content Harvesting Bandwagon

20/3/2007 - Red Herring reports that both CBS and Fox News have decided to start the push to harvest more "citizen journalism" for their channels. So, what does this mean to you, the citizen, who might want to send your vidphone shots of your dog jumping through a flaming hula hoop??

Flood coverage

26/6/2007 - Citizen journalism is making the news again. We have been all but overwhelmed with photos and videos from our audiences of the widespread flooding. As well as the dramatic rescue helicopter footage (for which many thanks, as ever, to the RAF) by lunchtime on Tuesday, the BBC had received well over 3,000 still images and 200 mobile phone videos - most from stranded motorists and people whose homes and businesses had been ruined by the rising waters.

27/2/2008 - To put it bluntly, India is mobile mad. Indian citizen journalism may thrive across a range blog networks, photo and video sites but what singles it out and makes it unique is the proliferation of micro and mobile blogging sites.
Online Journalism India: Moblogging is citizen journalism in India

BBC launches Indian citizen journalism project

The BBC has launched an online citizen journalism initiative to target an audience of Urdu speakers in India…… Mohammed Hanif, head of BBC Urdu, said the scheme would raise awareness of the BBC's Urdu site amongst Urdu-speakers in India, where internet usage is growing. …. "Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bhopal and Aligarh are centres of knowledge and talent, and we are looking forward to meeting our existing and future audiences there," said Hanif.

Citizen Journalist – be the change

Citizen Journalists Provided Glimpses of Mumbai Attacks

From his terrace on Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai, Arun Shanbhag saw the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel burn. He saw ambulances leave the Nariman House. And he recorded every move on the Internet……

"…. The real contribution of citizen journalists in a story like this, where whole areas of land are closed off and the fields of greatest danger keep shifting, is in having more eyes on the ground," Thomas Hollihan, a professor of media at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California, told the Baltimore Sun. "Citizen journalists are swapping information back and forth - reporting where the flames are now headed or showing images on their cell phones of the fire. And with so much happening so quickly, that kind of information can be really powerful - if it is accurate…..."

Social media used to keep flood victims informed

31/3/2009 - For more than a century, journalism operated the same way: a news event occurred, an “official” reporter wrote about it, an editor reshaped it, a headline writer contributed to it, a designer/producer fit the story into a prefabricated and limiting format, and it was all distributed to consumers at a predetermined time for consumption the way the “professionals” proscribed. Today, in only 10 years, that model has been ripped apart: anyone can now manufacture and globally distribute news and we can select what news we want to read however and whenever we want to read it. This is good if you believe in freedom of speech. But it’s not so good if you demand consistently high editorial standards and desire quality reporting. Since the editorial filter is non-existent in citizen journalism, every reader must exercise discernment to know what to accept as fact and what to jettison as fiction.
(AEJMC – Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication)

Extracts from ‘The Official Blog of AEJMC’

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How I became a Citizen Journalist

Writing is in my blood. My first English story in print appeared in the Sunday Statesman when I was 14 years old – the year was 1958. The next one was in 1961 in the Times of India. Later, in the course of my service, I secured several prizes in in-house essay competitions. Therefore, when I retired from service, I took up blogging as a hobby. That helped me get recognition – I found a mention in the 2007 edition of the Limca Book of Records as ‘the most prolific blogger’. Suddenly, I received an e-mail – it was an offer to write for a website of Citizen Journalism. Named the Merinews, it was based in New Delhi. I accepted the offer and, within a short time, my writings found appreciation among the readers. In June 2008, I was chosen as the ‘CJ of the Month’ by Merinews.

Citizen Journalist of Merinews, New Delhi

My presence on another Citizen Journalism website -


My blog REDISCOVERING INDIA (2376 posts; 930,000 plus cumulative views as on 9/4/2009) is available on

Who can be a Citizen Journalist?

The concept of Citizen Journalism is a totally new one. It involves members of the public who play a major role to collect, correlate, and report, analyze and disseminate news and information. The media could be the text, video or a combination depending on availability and convenience. Obviously, Citizen Journalists provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information which is what democracy needs.

Citizen journalists are people who do not usually possess any professional journalism training but can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.

Puneities hail the Citizens' Manifesto : India 2067 campaign

‘…..Thereafter, some citizens came forward and voiced their opinions on the issues that plague our society and suggested as what can be done to help curb these problems. Among them was a prominent Merinews CJ from Nasik Prabir Ghose, who suggested that ’no-vote’ option should be introduced in Electronic Voting Machines. …’


‘ … More recently, Allvoices launched in July 2008. Its CEO, Amra Tareen, is a Muslim American and former venture capitalist who created the site after having done charity work in her native Pakistan. While there she noted there was no central hub on the Internet where anyone, anywhere could witness and then instantly report from their perspective news as it happened. Allvoices uses a combination of technology and community to vet stories for authenticity and popularity. The site takes contributions from around the world via any Internet-connected device and its contributors frequently break stories before the mainstream media. Allvoices was also the first citizen journalism site to measure the credibility of contributed reports and their authors, providing readers with a gauge launched in March 2009 for assessing the accuracy of news accounts…..’


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How to become an effective Citizen Journalist

In order to become an effective Citizen Journalist, you must have an eye open for observation and the ear to the ground to capture the voices and sounds. And, since you get maximum reach through English, it is preferable that you have complete hold over the language. Citizen Journalists are basically freelancers and not tied down by rules of organizations, except that the news should not offend anyone and should be authentic. It all depends on your own self – if you want to follow a trail, by all means – go ahead. The choice is yours. There might be dangers lurking in the shadows especially when you try your hand at sting operations but, when you land a worthwhile catch, it compensates for the trouble.