Citizen journalism shaping the new world: Expert

May 24, 2011

Today’s people are no longer mere audiences, but an active part of the media revolution that is shaping the world, a media expert has said.

“Citizens are part of the ‘media revolution’ sweeping the news business today,” Joyce Barnathan, President of International Centre for Journalism (ICJ), said. “They serve as a powerful force for change around the world. With the new tools around us, citizen journalism can never be denied of its important role. We are in the stage where we see how powerful social media is, transforming the business of news that was never witnessed before,” she told a forum organized by Fahad Al Salem Center for Dialogue among Civilizations and Defense of Liberty in Kuwait.

The participants included Lech Walesa, former president of Poland, Willem Kok, President of Club de Madrid and former prime minister of Netherlands, Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada, Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia, Chandrika Kumaratunga, former president of Sri Lanka and Luis Alberto Lacalle, former president of Uruguay.

According to Barnathan, the media definition of the word ‘journalist’ has already changed.

“When I was a reporter, I went out with the pen and paper; now, journalists go out with their laptops equipped with wireless internet, digital recording equipments, iPhones and their stories go out in all available platforms. Now, our audiences are changing as well. They demand great stories, and often want to produce news by themselves,” she said, quoted by Kuwait Times.

She said that traditional media should follow the changes sweeping the world or risk extinction, adding that today’s era has been experiencing an enormous free flow of information.

The revolution in Egypt was fuelled by social media network, she said.

“Some 28 percent of the population in Egypt falls between the ages of 15 and 29. They are into web; it has been part of their daily lives. Egypt’s youngsters do not have to travel overseas to envision what could be the virtual world. They can see the world easily; opportunities are open to them, and virtual world is changing the expectation of young population,” she said.

Barnathan also believes that citizen’s participation especially in newsgathering has also increased.

“Traditional media now want to engage readers, viewers, listeners and urge them to participate by sending photos, videos, give comments on issues,” she said.

She said that more voices were always better, but warned that there was a negative side, as well.

“More is worse when comments are destructive; more is worse, when the quality is low and when the facts are not verified. More is worse when the goal is deceptive; more is worse when the government masquerades as a citizen journalist and gives out false information,” she said.

Such negative aspects demand that citizen journalists be properly trained.

“We are beginning to see the merger of citizen journalism with professional journalism. Professional journalists must know how to utilize new technology, and if the journalist can use them well, the story will be great, deeper, intellectually provoking and of high quality,” Barnathan said. “The new platform for journalism can be an incredible tool to change the world for better.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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