Barriers has finally been broken between the media and the public, in the form of citizen journalism.
“Collecting, analyzing, reporting and publishing news and information has become more independent. Ordinary citizens, have the opportunity to play a crucial role in being the voice for the voiceless, in their community. Citizen journalists deliver their own footage of news and events taken with their camera or camera phone on the scene of an incident that is newsworthy, which makes it a form of ‘we media’ – news for the people and by the people” [Van Noort, 2006]
When we say that citizen journalists provide their own footage of news and events, is that when we look at the terrible events of the 7/7 London bombings , which became an essential moment in citizen journalism, especially journalism as a whole. The information and pictures that came out of the event was initially provided by the public.
Through citizen journalism, people can actually voice their own opinion, and it may be that the government for example can listen to what the problems in our communities are, and what actually troubles people. Citizen journalism is more active; that type of journalism that listens before reporting, in a more personal way, which makes it more powerful.
Even though they are labelled as citizen journalists, but it still means that they are doing the same processes that a professional journalist is doing when collecting news. What that means is that they also face the risks involved when covering a story. It may be that the ordinary person, wants to cover a natural disaster, like getting the perfect shot of a tornado or a flood, it actually means that they are putting themselves at harm. Citizen journalists can also get arrested in political riots when they did something illegal, like taking videos of something, that is not supposed to be shown to the public, that creates conflict between the journalist and authorities.
So I say that South African media is making, and/or can make space for citizen journalism, because we see that the role citizen journalists play, is that they play it well. Many organizations has adapt to the fact that citizen journalism exists and feels that the role the public plays, when it comes to eye witness news, is powerful and attention grabbing.
Organizations like Reporter.co.za, has made it possible for ordinary citizens with internet access, to create and publish their own stories. This creates a platform for people to share their stories with others, without being dependent on an editor. Also making the gap between journalists and the public smaller, according to Professor Peter Verweij, lecturer in new media at the School of Journalism in The Netherlands, when he was speaking to the Mail & Guardian Online. He also says that “It could give a voice to many people living in townships and making themselves open to public debate and discussion, through and with the media. The new website Reporter.co.za is therefore an important creativity and It is an encouragement to journalism and a democratic society.”
Another organization OurHealth, a citizen and journalist-based project reporting on health issues in their communities, issues that are not covered by mainstream media journalists. This is just another platform and space created for the ordinary person, to share what they think and what they have to say.
Citizen journalism has been acknowledged and has opened public discussions and debates, so why are we not embracing their creativity and journalistic ability and giving citizens the space and opportunity to be storytellers.