The Dialogue on Citizen Journalism

By Nguyen Phuoc Bao Tri, November 19, 2021

With citizen journalism, the media becomes a means through which ordinary people contribute ideas, reports and comments. But what is citizen journalism, and how do we distinguish between citizen journalists and content creators? What are the risks citizen journalists may encounter? These were some of the questions put to presenters at SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk’s (SAJD) webinar, “Journalism in a Fragmented World” during its session on Citizen Journalism.

The presenters were Dr. Mastura Mahamed from the Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia; Arul Prakkash, Senior Programme Manager, Asia & the Pacific, WITNESS.org; and Carol Andrade, Dean of St Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE), Mumbai, India.

What are the qualifications of a citizen journalist?

Dr. Mastura: There is not a lot of discovery in terms of looking at journalism through the eyes of citizen journalists. It is always based on previous literature and on what practitioners and academincians think and say about citizen journalism practice. We should look beyond our own context and look at how other countries adapt to the definition. A citizen journalist is qualified when he/she is conceiving ideas, then collecting sources, going through the construction and the verification process.

How do we distinguish between citizen journalists and others, like content creators?

Carol: The citizen journalist has the motivation to get the news bylines in the story. Back in 2011, we had (a) bombing on our trains in Mumbai. We had a small group of reporters and citizen journalists who emerged as a source of information. These citizen journalists called us and provided us information with their names. We then were able to verify and publish our news. A citizen journalist adheres to certain rules.

Will citizen journalists take over or have greater collaboration with media houses?

Dr. Mastura: Citizen journalists could provide us with different aspects of an issue which a journalist may not have time to cover because of tight deadlines or (lack of) resources to go to the location. Yet, news must be reported in accordance with the standards of the journalistic practice process. This will mean more collaboration between citizen journalists and media houses.

Carol: Technology has divided us, especially journalists. But one thing will not change, that is the audience. Still, the question is how can we overcome the instinctive distrust and dislike (between citizen and professional journalists). Whether as a citizen journalist or a journalist working for media house, you need to recognize your sources, reassure (the public) about certain things, (have an) understanding of society and even psychology so that you meld it together and then present it to the public.


SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk and LICAS News Asia are the organisers of the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Fellowship Programme on the theme “Journalism in a Fragmented World,” a seven-week programme for lay Catholic and like-minded journalists working in the secular media. Offered virtually, the seven-week webinar brings together 25 selected participants from 14 countries to build capacity and promote exchange among media professionals and journalists who want to use their platform for social change. Programme details: https://www.signisasia.net/journalism-in-a-fragmented-world-webinar-2021/