Sunday, 17 November 2013

Week 9: Internet and Journalism

Posted by Beryl at 02:06
Ninth post!

In the past, and maybe even now, we have relied on traditional media such as newspapers and television to receive news information. However, with the rise of new media technology comes another form of media we can get our daily dosage of news from.
How ironic.
The internet has made it possible for us to access to an infinite amount of sources of news online. This enables us to conveniently view the news on-the-go with technological devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops), eliminating the mess. However, the news content available is not limited to what news agencies provide. Let me further elaborate.

The emergence of Web 2.0 meant the World Wide Web was about user-generated content, as well as the creation of content through the interaction and collaboration between users online. The proliferation of social networking sites, blogs, wikis, mash ups and more became common. User-generated content was not only limited to these. Naturally, citizen journalism (which has its roots a long time ago in American history) has transcended from paper to the virtual world as well, and thus we are able to gain knowledge of news reports from this alternative source.

Citizen journalism is the gathering and reporting of news by members of the general public, in contrast to the mainstream media that traditionally relies on professional journalists to do it. The news report could be in the form of an article or a home-made video, which gives a more realistic feel of the situation. Through citizen journalism, news information is disseminated to a wider audience in a shorter amount of time. A prime examples would be the Arab Spring where social media was extensively utilised, enabling audiences around the world to view the current situation fresh from the scene.
Traditional news reporting vs. Citizen journalism
  1. Democratization of the internet
    • Greater freedom: It is fair game to everyone with regards to creating a news report, as anybody can do so. A wider range of topics can be shared and viewed as well.
    • Less censorship: Citizen journalists are able to exercise their freedom of speech without constraint. The internet is hard to regulate, therefore it is hard to control the flow and type of information that is going around, enabling more voices and perspectives to be heard.
  2. Citizen journalism is less edited. It is more raw, bringing about a more exact representation of reality as compared to news reports on the television  or newspapers where there are editors that control what is being published.
  3. Breaking news: As mentioned before, there is a faster dissemination of news information with citizen journalism as compared to regular journalism. News that happen on-the-spot can be recorded down spontaneously by anyone who happens to be there at the same time. This contrasts with normal journalism where it might take a while for the news agencies to be tipped off about an issue before they can  report about it.
  1. News agencies might take advantage of citizen journalism. They might take advantage of the fact that the news reports are free to use and secure the rights to utilise them. Not only does it reduce costs, these agencies still are able to claim the successes of these news reports without putting in much effort.
  2. Following point 1, real journalists will be out of jobs. As anybody can produce a citizen journalism report at minimal or no cost and still be able to gain an audience, professional journalists become redundant.
  3. Journalism is dead. 
    • Since anyone can write an article on any issue, a sense of credibility for the profession of journalism is gone. Anyone can call themselves a 'journalist' if it means just filming a video, taking a picture or writing an article. Professional journalists are pros for a reason. They have undergone rigorous training and gained immense experience in the field to be in their positions today. We should respect their contributions.
    • Furthermore, citizen journalism does not necessarily follow the proper structure for reporting the news. For example, it might be an informal news report about an issue. Thus there is no professionalism involved.
    • As a continuation of that, it is hard for citizen journalists to replicate an actual news reporting. The quality and coverage of the news might not be up to par as compared to the ones reported by news agencies that have greater and better resources.
    • Citizen journalism is unregulated. There are no gatekeepers to filter the content being produced. This means that it is hard to avoid certain kinds of information, as well as decide on what information is truly important.
    • On a similar note, citizen journalism could be subjective to the views of the contributors, instead of a relatively fair portrayal a news agency might present.

This comic strip summarizes the cons of citizen journalism (with a dash of humour):
Click me for a better viewing experience!
A prime example of a citizen journalism site in Singapore is

STOMP stands for Straits Times Online Mobile Print. As its name implies, STOMP is a subsidiary of one of Singapore's leading newspapers The Straits Times. According to the site, it is "Asia's leading citizen journalism website with user-generated material fueling its success". STOMP  has also been conducting votings for their citizen journalism awards, rewarding those whose articles have garnered many likes from the audience with prizes.

So how exactly do you 'stomp' something? STOMP allows users to contribute information to the site by posting pictures or videos they have taken as well as writing an article about the issue that they are reporting on:
There are many categories of articles to view, ranging from 'Hot Topics' to 'In The Heartlands'.
An example of a hot-topic article would be the infamous 'maid carrying NS man's bag':
Apparently, what happened was that a maid was carrying a NS man's field pack while he was texting on his phone. The contributor took a photo of the incident and submitted it to the website. The picture soon became viral in Singapore. It even made the news on television and newspapers. In addition, it resulted in discussions, debates and controversy, with even the Ministry of Defence having to step in to deal with the problem.

It has become a norm for people to 'stomp' anything, from something as trivial as a fight between two people, to something more serious like flooding in Singapore. I feel that certain articles undermine the credibility of the site as a citizen journalism site. I think its ridiculous to consider anything that is posted as 'news' or citizen journalism. I feel that the information contributed should be significant and relevant to us and stimulate our thinking, rather than gossiping about aunties shouting at young girls on a train. While some people contribute as they genuinely desire to share an important issue, others do it to get attention, money, or to brag about the fact that their picture or video has become popular.
I personally receive news information from traditional media such as newspapers or television, rather than getting the news online. The fact that I have no 3G plays a significant role in my actions. Furthermore, nothing beats the feeling of flipping the pages of a newspaper and exposing oneself to various articles in every page (unlike online news sites where you can choose what you want to read) or experiencing news in greater depth on a familiar television set (with text, sounds, video happening all at once). When I read articles by citizen journalists, I try to take everything with a pinch of salt. I am not disregarding what they are reporting, but am being aware of the various perspectives of different people on the web.

Sound advice Bart!

Signing off!


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