In a world where misinformation and bias can skew the truth, the role of a citizen journalist is increasingly important.
A citizen journalist is an everyday individual who shares information, driven by a quest for justice and accuracy. They highlight social issues and concerns that mainstream media might overlook.
With the growth of social media and digital platforms, citizen journalists can reach a global audience ready to engage with their content. However, being a citizen journalist involves more than just having an audience. What are the other steps needed to become a citizen journalist? Let's explore this in this post.
What it Means to Be a Citizen Journalist
Being a citizen journalist lets you actively share vital information instead of just consuming news passively.
By taking on the mantle of a citizen journalist, one decides to take a stand and speak about issues that matter and have been overlooked. It's about voicing concerns for the community, bringing to light stories that would otherwise remain shrouded in obscurity.
How do we achieve this? Let's find out.
Identifying Core Issues
The first step towards becoming a citizen journalist involves deciding on the core issues that you want to cover.
This could be anything from environmental concerns to healthcare, education, and human rights. Or it could be something one is passionate about or affected by in daily life.
For example, suppose somene lives in a city where small businesses are disappearing because of big box companies; this could become a serious topic for a citizen journalist to cover.
The ultimate aim would be to bring attention to the issues faced by citizens daily.
This is just an example; there are innumerable issues that need to be highlighted, and all it takes is the desire to bring about change.
Learning To Gather Information
Once one has identified the core issues they want to cover, the next step is to learn ways to gather information effectively.
Usually, in the case of eyewitnesses, one can rely on their own accounts and experiences. Like, if someone is reporting live from a protest, they can provide a first-hand account of what is happening on the ground.
However, for other stories, it is essential to have reliable sources of information.
Starting from asking witnesses, accessing public records, and visiting events for interviews, citizen journalists have to be resourceful in their approach.
Moreover, in case someone faces any difficulty in obtaining information, they can file RTI applications to obtain the required information. Generally, in cases of accessing government records, the RTI act of the country comes in handy.
Developing Necessary Skills
When it comes to reporting, it can be done in written format and through photography, video interviews, and even audio recordings.
This brings us to another vital aspect of becoming a citizen journalist - developing the necessary skills.
For writing a reading-worthy and stimulating report, one must have excellent writing skills. And nowadays, there are many writing tools as well that can help enhance one's writing skills.
When taking photographs and capturing moments, they must have a good eye for detail and composition. Having a basic understanding of editing software is also necessary.
Incorporating images or videos along with the written piece makes it more engaging and helps the audience connect better with the story.
Furthermore, for conducting interviews and reporting on camera, one must have confidence and clear communication skills. An anchoring course or workshop can also help develop these skills.
Choosing The right medium
With social media and digital platforms, the options available to share one's report are endless.
One can write articles on blogging websites or even create a blog of their own.
On the other hand, they can use social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to post about their reports.
A lot of people must have heard of NasDaily. No, he isn't a citizen journalist. But the way he addresses a lot of things, problems, issues, and even the positives through his one-minute videos is commendable. He has a large following of people not just from the Middle East but worldwide.
Platforms like YouTube and IGTV also offer more engaging options through videos. Learning from his videos, anyone can make their reporting videos to put their point forward.
Another aspect that can be used for citizen journalism is a podcast. Some do it by inviting guest speakers to discuss topics, while others talk about pressing issues in their own unique ways.
Upholding Unbiased Reporting and Justice
A citizen journalist can never compromise on integrity. As a citizen journalist, one must ensure that their reports are unbiased and based on facts.
Suppose one is doing a podcast on the recent Ukraine and Russia conflict. In that case, they need to research both sides of the story and include interviews with people living in those regions to provide a balanced view of the situation.
Also, if someone is reporting on an issue that needs attention or justice, it is essential to follow up on the matter and make sure there is proper accountability.
For instance, if a citizen journalist reports on a case of sexual harassment in their community, it is crucial to follow up and ensure that the perpetrator is brought to justice.
Additionally, it's important to always fact-check information before publishing it. With the rise of fake news and misinformation, citizen journalists hold the responsibility of upholding the truth.
Someone reporting about an event needs to give accurate data like - the number of people attended and details on the speakers, and not just give opinions.
Know Your Limits
As a journalist, having data and info might seem like a weapon, but it should never be used to harm anyone.
Citizen journalism's primary objective is to prioritize community engagement rather than conflict, advocacy instead of objectivity, and interpretation above solely relying on factual reporting.
It is essential to know when not to cross the line and respect people's privacy. Gaining consent before publishing sensitive information or images of individuals is crucial.
For instance, in the case of a disaster or tragic event, while it is important to report on the situation, one should refrain from exploiting people's emotions and privacy for views or likes.
Moreover, if someone is not willing to be interviewed, it is necessary to respect their decision and not force them into giving statements.
Citizen journalism is more than just a buzzword for being at the right place at the right time. It is a profound response to the growing need for transparency, authenticity, and diversity in our media landscape.
A citizen journalist holds the power to bring about change and shed light on important issues that mainstream media may not cover. With passion, dedication, and responsible reporting, anyone can become a valuable member of the citizen journalism community and make a positive impact in their society.
As a career path, citizen journalism not only offers endless opportunities for growth and learning but also brings a sense of fulfillment and purpose to one's life. So, pursue it if you find your passion in it.