The scenario in the Indian media has been quite grim in the last few years. The country has only a few prominent media houses that not only influence the news but are also monitored by either big corporate houses or powerful political parties. Many a times, these mainstream media due to their vested interest does not address some of the critical or socially relevant news. Sometimes, they muktocampus do not cover the regional issues extensively and mention them only in tickers. Under the pressure from higher authorities, occasionally, stories are also stopped at the press at the very last moment.
All this debars people to know the true stories or news that might influence their lives. In order to bridge this gap between the media and the readers, a new concept of participatory journalism is emerging very fast across the globe. Citizen journalism, also known as participatory journalism, is defined as an act of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information by a citizen or a group of citizens. The concept emerged after the 1988 US presidential election to counter mistrust in the news media and widespread public disillusionment with politics and civic affairs. One of the earliest proponents of the concept was Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at the New York University. He directed the Project on Public Life and the Press, funded by the Knight Foundation, from 1993 to 1997.
With emerging Internet and networking technologies like weblogs, chat rooms, message boards, wikis and mobile computing, the concept began to flourish. Though a new concept in India, participatory journalism is a globally recognized movement. For instance, on 22 February 2000, Oh Yeon-ho founded a participatory web platform called Ohmynews in South Korea. The platform employs some professional reporters who write about 20% of its content, with the rest coming from other freelance contributors who are mostly ordinary citizens. Other instances includes Backfence.com, a neighbourhood community website launched in the USA. The web site features three communities with extensive happenings in the respective neighbourhoods.
India is the largest democracy in the world and we all know democracy is based on the voice of the common citizens. Participatory journalism in India will definitely help in bringing this voice to the world over. Such a concept will revolutionize the entire media in the country. It will influence how news is reported in the traditional mainstream media. It will become a powerful tool for every Indian to report the news that touches their lives. Citizen journalism will help in addressing issues that affect common people. It is a platform to voice opinions, which aims at promoting a two-way communication. Today, the common people are conscious about the happenings around them and are eager to voice their concerns.
Indians have already awakened to the fact of blogging, with people from all around the country voicing their opinion on varied issues. During the 2004 tsunami crisis, blogs like tsunamihelp.blogspot.com helped in generating participatory stories from the country on the issue. Many reported, through this blog, about their near-death experiences and the aftermath of the disaster that were not covered by the mainstream media.
The other modes through which Indians commonly express their concerns are the newspaper editorials or letters to the editor. A few seconds of news bytes also do not portray the right voice of the citizens. Moreover, most of these mediums only provide a scope for the citizens to voice their concerns and not a platform to report their news.
Nonetheless, the country till recently lacked an Internet based platform, where people can simply log on and file their news. But with the popularisation of online contributory news portal, this gap has also been fulfilled. Such portals enable people who are not trained news professionals to become more directly engaged with news events. These kinds of platforms help in strengthening the online communities and usher in an era of passionate, genuine and honest media. It blurs the difference between the journalist and the reader. It gives readers the power to be a journalist and report events that would change the outlook of the entire society.