Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Civic Journalism

 The Media today is facing a peculiar dilemma. The growth of the media from local to global, and from global to local is as global paradox, as John Naisbitt calls it. He has reiterated its corporate identity as the mega enterprise of the information era. The new brand image has identified the media products whether it is a news peg or an animation film as true and ideal commodities of the market. It is exactly here, where the dilemma creeps in. The conflict between the practice and the practi­tioner has narrowed down now a ­days leaving the contentious social responsibility and ethical issues for debate and decision to the propri­etor - the archetypal ethical journal­ist is dead, or declared dead, for a very thick purse and incentives.
The result is that the newspapers and the television channels have become ‘disseminators of just the facts,’ with no prefixes or suffixes of social commitment added to them even for the sake of attraction. The familiar advertisement of a highest circulated daily tells about the copies it sold than what the paper is doing or, has done. This exactly points to the shift of focus in the practice of journalism. The issue has been a topic of discussion in the West over years. And they have come out with a new formula of Civic Journalism as remedy; such initiatives are totally absent·in this part of the land. We never had any movements in journalism like the New Journalism movement·in America in the late sixties. Here people think in a different way, the alternate voice is suppressed or looked down upon as if it is a curse. The US that enjoys the luxury of the quality media products and thick media saturation shelters the highest number, of alternate media ventures and experiments, which are not frowned upon but enjoys a good popular support.
What I am telling is that there is no conscious effort here, on the part of either the journalist fraternity or the media owners for redefining or underlining the basic functions or commitments of the fourth estate. Civic Journalism is one such prac­tice, which need to be copied. Civic Journalism is more of a 'consumer approach to public affairs reporting' than most reporters are used to. It provides readers with the informa­tion they need to be citizens. The Pew Centre for Civic Journalism in the US ( is an agency that is involved in propagat­ing this new model. Most of the American and British newspapers now advise their editors to practise this new reader friendly civic approach.
Civic journalism demands a greater commitment on the part of the journalist in his role as a reporter or gatekeeper. A recent survey by the Pew Centre on the practice of civic journalism revealed the ways of practising civic journalism. The survey revealed that more than 80 per cent of the newspapers gave e-mail addresses or telephone numbers of  the reporters along with the reports and some have given website tip lines or opportunities for interaction with the reporters, a practice which we can never dream of. Majority of the newspapers convened conversa­tions about a key community issue outside their newsrooms. Asianet and Kairali TV have similar pro­grammes, but our news papers have not ventured into such regular social conversations. Most of the editors allowed their reporters for 'roam­ing' or 'beat development' to 'have more interaction with the community. The survey also showed that most of the editors made a conscious effort to avoid conflict, mur­der and crime stories and resorted to development stories instead. The reporters were also asked to frame stories around problem identifica­tion and solution. And there were more attempts by reporters and edi­tors to include possible solutions to problems in stories at least most of the time. The encouragement of cit­izen reporting is also yet another factor, that is any citizen who is wit­ness to an incident can be the reporter of the event, which would nurture more interaction with the community and also help in source development. Another is giving more opportunity for readers to voice their opinions, by giving more space than the usual letters to the editor column. Among the Indian newspapers, The Hindu stands out in this regard with their Open Page.
These are some of the ways to practice civic journalism. As social, political and economic contexts dif­fer from country to country the practice need to be evolved and experimented to suit the requirements. It is high time that we should think of new movements to save the extinct species of committed journalists.

No comments:

Post a Comment