Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The State of Citizen Journalism in India Part 1 – blogs, photos and videos

Everyone is a reporter now. This is fast turning out to be a cliche and thus, it does not surprise me to find that Citizen Journalism in India is thriving across different platforms and Indians are happy to use any tool they can get their hands on – blogs, blog networks, photo sites, video sites, mobiles...what else you got?

Task oriented by nature, Indians are delightfully platform-agnostic and have taken to reporting for Television news and Mobile reporting in a big way. In this article, the first of a three-part series on the State of Citizen Journalism in India, I will cover blog, photos and videos.

Freeing Citizen Journalism from platforms
It is best to see Citizen Journalism free from the constraints imposed by most so-called platforms. Citizen Journalism is not just limited to sites such as Ohmynews.com, Nowpublic.com, Newassignment.net and ‘destination’ sites. Having said that, I am not implying that there is anything wrong with these bold, fine services.

Where does the Indian Citizen Journalist choose to speak out, giving all of us engaging alternatives to the mainstream news here in India, which some have charitably coined as '95% drivel & 5 % news'.

Citizen Journalism Destination Sites
Two big sites come to mind. Merinews.com, backed by IT entrepreneurs is very active with citizen journalism, although it is jarring to see Citizen Journalism as just another link on the navigation bar.

Instablogs.com, which has been around since October 2005, has better design and publishes stories from Citizen Reporters from November 2006. Instablogs is different in the sense that it pays for the stories it accepts to publish. Disclosure: I was the founding Managing Editor at Instablogs till October 2006.

Blogging platforms
The big three Indian portals Sulekha, Rediff and Indiatimes provide blogging tools to their readers and the activity is quite high.

Blogging Collectives
They are groups of bloggers who post interesting links on a common site. Started by US-based Indian students, Desipundit.com is a pioneering site in the field. Blogbharti.com was launched in 2007 and is doing quite well.

Blogging collectives are important and in my opinion can play a greater role if they have a Digg-like news submission and ratings section. Groups have proven to be the reason for success of social news sites such as Digg and Reddit (although, they can be abd thing as well, if they start taking themselves too seriously, blocking out all opposing points of views)

Teaching Villagers to be Citizen Journalists
Sweta Singh, who comes from the state of Bihar, one of the poorest places in India (I come from the same state) but now works in New Delhi has started on a noble mission of training citizen journalism to women panchayat (local village council) leaders in Bihar. The ‘MYOWN’ initiative is an experiment and Sweta is funding the initiative herself.

Student Bloggers
They are very active on blogger.com and wordpress.com and most are active participants on social networking sites including Orkut.com and I include social networking sites because Indians are very passionate about their heroes and issues and controversies centered around groups supporting this & that person/issue often spill out onto blogs and so on…

Recently News TV channel CNN-IBN launched the CNN-IBN Forum for Students. Purporting to be a platform for students to speak out, it appears to be a branding exercise as there are just a limited number of student bloggers and one is not sure how to sigh up, which is a pity.

So far, no news channel or newspaper has opened up a platform for Citizen Journalists in India, something along the lines of CNN’s recently launched iReport initiative. It seems like I will have to be content with seeing every big newspaper flashing mobile numbers and email addresses where everyone can send in stories.

Doc Holliday has reportedly said,
“My hypocrisy will only take me so far.”
Using blogging to bring change
There are some deep systemic problems with India. In the two-way avatar of the internet, citizens have a platform for their voice. They are no more dependent upon mainstream media, many of whom may dither to publish (and annoy) the powers to be.

In a recent report on e-democracy, the Economist newspaper wrote, “Citizens are not only the state's customers; they are also its owners.”

I look forward to the next level of Citizen Journalism in India:
Using web 2.0 tools to monitor government offices, government officials, voting records/attendance records of elected officials, allocation and usage of funds, who is in cahoots with whom,… it is a big list of things that must be monitored collectively by the public.

I look forward to mobile pictures and videos of Government Servants demanding or accepting bribes. Online video is an expensive proposition, I suggest using Youtube.

Moving on.

Like I said before, Citizen Journalists of India, and elsewhere in the world, do not need big platforms to speak out. The tools to speak out are plenty and are free.

Some places where you can find the Indian Citizen Journalist on a daily basis:

India on Nowpublic.com
India on digg.com
India on del.icio.us
India on Flickr
India blogs
India on Youtube
India on Technorati
15,957 blogs about india

Related article
Who are the top Indian Bloggers?

1. I think I must mention how Indian bloggers took up the IIPM scandal in earnest. More here. [disclosure repeat: I was the Managing Editor at Instablogs at the time.]

2. Governments will try to muzzle the Citizen's voice on the slightest of pretexts. For example, in the aftermath ofkx the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts, the Government of India decided to ban some blogs but the ISPs inadvertently blocked all blogs hosted on Blogspot. I am positive that this is not the last time we have seen a heavyhanded government at work.

Coming next: Part 2 of the State of Citizen Journalism in India, where I take up TV and Radio. In Part 3, I have covered the exciting phenomenon of Mobile and Micro Blogging.

Labels: , , , ,


At 8:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went through your three-part series on citizen journalism, and found it very knowledgeable. We would like to put excerpts from the series on www.OCMS.in, which is India's first online school of journalism, and media vertical. The excerpts will be linked to your blog. Please let us know if we have your permission to do so.

With best wishes,
Sunil Saxena

At 5:58 PM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

Of course, Mr. Saxena. I will be happy if your students can benefit from it.

At 11:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remove the spam comments, you will just worthless traffic from surfers looking for something else otherwise. Besides, I see a mistake here:

Doc Holliday _is_ reportedly said,
“My hypocrisy will only take me so far.”

I think you mean to say HAS

At 9:46 PM , Blogger Pramit Singh said...

Thanks for pointing out the mistake. Corrected.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home