The case for citizen journalism in India

In today’s fast evolving digital age, every concept centred around journalism needs to be evaluated against the technology that supports it. Every piece of news generated by a citizen journalist requires a carrier for it to be delivered to the user. Digital delivery would seem like the most obvious option in this case. By extending that logic slightly loosely, we can presume the success and popularity of citizen journalism is directly linked to the digital technology available.
The case for citizen journalism in India needs to be seen in that context too. For a useful analysis, let’s introduce a comparison. A major citizen journalism success story is of South Korea’s OhMyNews with more than 50,000 citizens contributing to it. Two key factors fuel its success. One, the country is heavily populated, with 41 million citizens. Second, at least seven in every 10 of its citizens have high­speed broadband access that powers participatory journalism.
By comparison, India has nearly 1.2 billion residents. Just one in every 10 of these accesses Internet. Worse, about seven in every 10 connections that feed these users are broadband. New mobile technologies are indeed fast invading the Indian market. But lack of high-speed Internet continues to restrict citizen journalism.
This is not to say citizens are totally away from the news process. CNN-IBN, a leading television news channel, encourages and carries programmes based on reports by citizen journalists. In most cases, it offers production expertise to citizens who want to report. Last year, it launched awards for citizen journalists across categories like Breaking News, Compelling Imagery, Commentary and Interview. Another popular channel, NDTV, also carries a regular programe managed by citizen journalists.
Like for the journalism profession in general, the future of citizen journalism in India lies in how quickly the country can offer fast speed Internet access to users.


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