By Justin Victor, November 18, 2021
Youth citizen journalists see their role as empowering fellow youth by showing how they are reporting on a lot of things that are not reported in the mainstream media. This was indicated by Dr Mastura Mahamed, Senior Lecturer in communications at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM, a local government university) who shared findings from her research paper titled ‘Understanding Citizen Journalism in Malaysia: Perspective of Youth Citizen Journalism.’
Speaking at the webinar “Journalism in a Fragmented World” organised by the SIGNIS Asia Journalism Desk (SAJD), she gave an analysis of the perception of these youths of citizen journalism, in contrast to research that looks at the issue through an academic or professional lens.
The term ‘citizen journalism’ often carries a negative connotation of articles and stories that are not credible, do not follow established journalism standards or are overly political. The negative terms hype (or hacker), keyboard warriors, and cyber troopers are often associated with citizen journalists.
Correcting this misconception, Dr Mastura noted that research reveals about 95% of the stories are not political. Instead, the young citizen journalists showed that they were passionate about wanting to share personal experiences of what they had been exposed to in their communities, and connect with people. They expressed respect for the gatekeeping process of the mainstream media, and were willing to learn proper journalistic processes.
Citizen journalism in the country is hampered by the gap in collaboration between professional journalists in mainstream media and those wanting to articulate personal experiences and community issues. This gives rise to the question of the extent of help and collaboration between each party. One example was when former professional journalists at three websites where the youth published their stories helped these young citizen journalists vet their articles and guided them through the proper journalistic processes.
There is value and a place for citizen journalism. Dr Mastura illustrated this point with the example of a group of indigenous peoples who turned citizen journalists to get the authorities to act on the detrimental effects of illegal logging on their homes, culture and ancestral habitat. After training, these indigenous people turned the spotlight on their plight by publishing online; their story was picked up by the mainstream media, and in turn got the attention of the authorities.
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/