If there is a reporter/journalist who works with a media entity and a public-spirited citizen with a pen, paper, video camera, zeal and enthusiasm for journalism, then who becomes more important in the news cycle? Now suppose there are many thousands of persons like the public-spirited citizen, who share the same passion, then who becomes more effective and essential to media houses? Who outnumbers the other?
Whether persons know it or not, every single person out there has a very important role to play in the area of journalism wherever they live. A newspaper or television reporter cannot be everywhere all the time. They are employed during certain hours and are usually called upon to visit scenes of breaking stories and other events. By the time many of them have arrived, the story would have either been partially or entirely missed or have ended. It is with this idea that citizen journalism rose to popularity in the 1980s in the United States.
Today, the idea of citizen journalism has been developed and nurtured into something so powerful, it makes on and off-duty reporters cringe at times. Yes, slowly but surely many of the reporting we have in the media – Guyana being no exception – would eventually be taken over by citizen journalism! An editor, a reporter, photographer, commentator, and columnist are some of the roles that many ordinary men and women play each and every day in this growing field of journalism in the world today.
With today’s technology, news travels faster than ever before. Information, images and even videos can be posted within seconds of happening through the use of the latest technological advances such as U-Tube, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. The worldwide leader in news, CNN, has recognized the importance of citizens around the world, since they are there when the news happens – something which many of the hundreds of correspondents they employ in positions around the world could not accomplish. Yes, CNN has the ‘i-Report’ section which is filled with images, videos and information of worldwide news as it happens. Many of these reports by the average man and woman in the world lead to big breaking stories.
News does not wait on man, and certainly not on our editors and media houses. Nobody can stop the speed that news can travel today. Can our nation which is populated with a few reporters here and there catch this news as it travels? Are today’s journalists truly feeling the pulse-beat of the communities in which they live today? Are they in touch with their deep passion (I want to believe that they do have a passion for the jobs they do) for collecting news and transferring it to the general population as quickly as possible? I leave the general public out there to answer these questions.
Citizen journalism was established a few decades ago because some person found him or herself in the right place at the right time when news was happening. Our reporters and journalists today are not doing enough to help the public make sense of what is happening around them on a daily basis. And that is exactly why citizen journalism must be actively pursued in Guyana – more ever than before!
Many citizen journalists globally have established blogs of their own, where they share information directly through a website. However, since not everyone today has access to the internet, and because the newspaper has been one of the oldest and most trusted sources of information, above the local TV news, citizen journalism has a heightened presence in newspapers and other traditional forms of the print media, many a time at no cost to the newspaper.
But the question is, are our TV news and newspaper editors truly open to this new form of sharing information and ideas with the general public?
Leon Jameson Suseran