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Citizen journalism August 7, 2006

Posted by R.S in Uncategorized.
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The volatility of the present remains underscored with man-made catastrophes in the form of suicide attacks, bomb blasts and armed conflicts. While these developments result in unwarranted loss of human lives and generate waves of panic and anguish, each event itself is a test for e-media as a viable news source – projecting blogs as a source of ‘citizen journalism’.

In July, as the world gathered to commemorate the London bombings of July 7, 2005, media pundits were quick to acknowledge the role of citizen journalism in the wake of the event. According to Torin Douglas, media correspondent at BBC News, the London bombings marked a turning point for the media. “That day, the BBC received 22,000 e-mails and text messages about the London bombings. There were 300 photos and several video sequences. With events happening largely underground, far removed from the eyes of the media professionals, the mobile-phone camera helped illustrate the day’s horrific events in a way that would not have been possible before. Dramatic photos and video sequences from passengers on the Tube led the BBC News bulletin, the first time such material had been deemed more newsworthy than the professionals’ material.”

As the world continued to debate the newsworthiness of ‘user-generated content’ and citizen journalism, the Mumbai bombings of July 11, 2006 once again highlighted the efficacy of cyberspace in times of crisis. As people turned to traditional media to get updates on the event, many others flocked to online news sources and forums. Many people chose to vent their frustration and anger via blogs, while others used the global reach of the Web to connect locals, Indian expatriates and other netizens to the event via blog updates. As Nayanima Basu of Indo-Asian News Service reported, “that dreadful night of 7/11, bloggers came to the rescue of millions of Mumbaikars and thousands across the globe with their continuing stream of information on every aspect of the blasts and the victims. The bloggers continued to visit the blast sites and hospitals, networking with the police and posting all the necessary details on their blogs. Among these, Metroblogging Mumbai and Mumbai Help featured details about the blasts and the names of all the hospitals with contact numbers, list of the injured and dead along with photographs and contact details of the missing people as well as details of the blood banks.

Endeavours such as these are a clear indication that in this day and age the internet’s role as a news medium has surpassed being merely an online version of news media and instead produces unprecedented examples of ‘citizen journalism’.

Originally published in SPIDER Magazine

August 2006

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