The students of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC) Pune had organised a seminar on ‘Citizen media – Audience empowered’ in the Capital on November 25, as part of the institution’s nationwide annual media event, ‘Footprints’.
The seminar commenced with a discussion on the rise of citizen journalism. Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN, started by saying that citizen journalism was not a unique idea anymore, though it was started in India by CNN-IBN. He said, “My belief has been that in a cluttered market like ours, it is the big idea which will survive. All of last year’s major films like ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ have survived on one big idea.” According to him, in times like these when there was a lot of hue and cry about the kind of content aired in the name of news, citizen journalism was a way to break away from that clutter. “Citizen journalism is complementary to current journalism. It is not a substitute. With news being sold today, and political parties buying space in channels and papers, it is essential for citizen journalism to evolve,” he said.
Talking about the quality of content on television, Pankaj Pachauri, Senior Editor, NDTV, highlighted the fact that these days the success of media depended on how much money it made. He said that there was a need to draw a new conduct for media. “Today, everyone knows about SRK’s six-packs, but no one knows about what is happening with the nuclear deal. We are living in a country where 74 per cent population lives in rural areas, yet their issues are not covered by the media,” said Pachauri.
Anurag Batra, MD and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group, defined citizen journalism as inclusive or participatory journalism. “Citizen journalism is all about issues. ‘Letters to the Editor’ is a form of citizen journalism. We are moving into an era of localisation of news. Citizens should not turn into journalists. They should however increase their participation,” he averred. He went on to add that citizen journalism was latched upon as a buzzword as news channels’ biggest challenge was to differentiate. He said, “I hope it carries forward and it’s not just a fad. I hope citizen journalism is seen as a serious concern to involve people.”
Questioning the fourth estate, Vipul Upadhyay, Founder and Chief Editor, Merinews.com, questioned whether the media was deviating from its path. “Citizen journalists are not here to replace media journalists. Citizen journalism is not about creating parallel journalism. It is about what should be in media and the perception of people about it.”
Highlighting the role of community radio in promoting participatory journalism, Geeta Malhotra, Head of ICT Advocacy, Grassroots Communications and Capacity Building said, “Policy decisions for designing communication strategy must recognise the challenges at grass root level. Mass media institutes should network with NGOs and provide a platform to youngsters to understand community issues.”