Citizen journalism can take many forms, Dorothy Gordon, director general of Ghana's Advanced Information Technology Institute, explained at RIA Novosti’s Future Media Forum.
Showing a picture of an African woman holding in her hands something looking like a thick bamboo stick, Gordon said that even though the woman can’t read and doesn’t know how to use the Internet, through the device she’s holding she can report news from her village, which is then processed and published online.
Such pioneering techniques are revolutionizing the way we think about citizen journalism, which is based on open publishing, collaborative editing and distributed content.
RIA Novosti, the publisher of The Moscow News, hopes that its pilot “You Reporter” project will grow exponentially over the next five years.
“I expect that by the end of 2011, we will have up to 5,000 citizen journalists and over the next five years, their number will increase to 1 million,” RIA Novosti editor-in-chief Svetlana Mironyuk told the Future Media Forum, which was held at the agency’s new Multimedia Press Center on Friday, the 70th anniversary of its founding.
The project allows anyone to upload their photos, videos and stories to the Youreporter.ru website where the materials are selected, edited and posted by RIA Novosti journalists.
“The journalist’s monologue is turning into a conversation with bloggers, citizen journalists and dwellers of social networks,” Mironyuk said.
“We expect the number of participants to grow to1 million by 2016 by means of active work with people from Russia’s regions and journalists [around the world],” Natalya Yamnitskaya, a curator of the project, told The Moscow News. “The broad scope of the audience will allow us to get closer to the reader. Being able to tell people about what is happening in their district or across the street will allow us to overcome the barrier of the viewer being distant from the events on the other side of the screen. This will give us a huge advantage in the media space.”
The project is aimed at providing independent, accurate and up-to-date information, allowing readers to take active part in the news-making process.
RIA-Novosti editors said that all uploaded files would be checked for authenticity, and that a special token would be used to confirm that all information is verified by the agency’s editorial team.
The agency says that 6,000 materials have been uploaded so far, and that more than 3,000 have been published.
First on the scene
“The essence of citizen journalism is that everybody find out what it’s like to be a journalist,” said Denis Voronin, a participant in the You Reporter project. “Citizen journalists don’t depend on the editorial team and can plan their work – where to go and what to write – themselves,” Voronin told The Moscow News.
“Citizen journalists are often the first to arrive at the scene of an incident … [He or she] can quickly prepare a story from the scene and immediately send the material to the editorial team, where the interesting materials can be published on newsfeeds.”
“This is how sensations are born,” said another citizen journalist, Alex Goltsman. “And it’s an advantage for the media themselves, as it builds ratings.”
“I often arrive on the scene and immediately send photos,” Voronin said. “The editorial team often has information but no photographs. This is citizen journalism – when people without any special training who don’t work in the media become reporters, the main thing here is desire and an interest to cover news stories.”
Goltsman believes citizen journalism has a great future.
Not just amateurs
“We have an idea that we can work together as an organization, not as amateurs, having a website and a room where we would work and prepare materials for the media,” he said. “We would teach the newcomers what we know. This would enable citizen journalism move to a new semi-professional level.”
But experts at the Future Media Forum insisted that citizen journalism would never replace professional journalism.
Thomas Kent, deputy editor-inchief at The Associated Press, told the forum that the main difference between professional and citizen journalists is that the former usually base their reports and viewpoints on fact, and are not eager to express their personal point of view – as opposed to bloggers and citizen journalists.
Elena Kirillova contributed to this report.