the rise of citizen journalism in nigeria
1.1 Background of the Study
The concept of citizen journalism has been variously called “public”, “participatory”, “democratic”, “guerrilla’ or “street” journalism.” Bowman and Willis (2003) define this brand of journalism as “the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information, the intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.” Radsch (2013), vividly captures the spirit and essence of citizen journalism in his definition of the concept as “an alternative and activist form of newsgathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as a repose to shortcoming in the professional journalistic field, that uses similar journalistic practices but is driven by different objectives and ideals and relies on alternative sources of legitimacy than traditional or mainstream journalism.”
Citizen journalism is the reverse of the straight-jacket, near unilateral top-down communication system of the mainstream media. Bowman and Willis (2003) state that, “Participatory journalism is a bottom-up, emergent phenomenon in which there is little or no editorial oversight or formal journalistic workflow dictating the decisions of a staff. Instead, it is the result of many simultaneous, distributed conversations that either blossom or quickly atrophy in the Web’s social network.” They observe that “the fluidity of this approach puts more emphasis on the publishing of information rather than the filtering. Conversations happen in the community for all to see. In contrast, traditional news organizations are set up to filter information before they publish it.” In its true nature, citizen journalism allows no room for gate keeping. In this brand of journalism, information gets to the members of public, who are directly involved in content creation, raw, ‘naked’ and undiluted.
Over the years, there seems to be some confusion regarding the meaning and nature of citizen journalism. This is evident in the numerous names it has been called, as enumerated above. Pondering on this, Meyer (2005). observes that “one measure of the discomfort that journalists feel over the concept of public journalism is the great variety of names given it, e.g. civic journalism, citizen journalism, community journalism, or communitarian journalism.” He further states: Part of the blame for the confusion must go to the early promoters of public journalism who have steadfastly refused to give it a definition or anything more than a vague theoretical structure. Because it is an idea in development, they say, a definition would needlessly limit it. Maybe so. But one consequence is that debating public journalism is like arguing over a Rorschach test. Each sees in it the manifestation of his or her fondest hopes or worst fears.
The confusion is apparently fuelled by uncertainties about what constitutes citizen journalism and who citizen journalists are. This explains why Glaser (2006). notes that “There is some controversy over the term citizen journalism, because many professional journalists believe that only a trained journalist can understand the rigors and ethics involved in reporting the news. And conversely, there are many trained journalists who practice what might be considered citizen journalism by writing their own blogs or commentary online outside of the traditional journalism hierarchy.”
The seaming confusion and misconception notwithstanding, citizen journalism is simply the emerging brand of journalism in which the content is user-generated, unedited, uncensored and comes real-time. The definition by Professor Jay Rosen, cited in Moller (2012), gives an insight into the nature of citizen journalism concept: “citizen journalism is when people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.” With this, it is obvious that a person does not necessarily need a former training in journalism to be a citizen journalist, especially in this era of astounding ubiquity of the social media. What one needs to participate in the growing citizen journalism spectrum is just a fair knowledge of the operations and manipulations of the social media.
Mark, (2006), a freelance journalist, explains that, the idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others. For example, you might write about a city council meeting on your blog or in an online forum. Or you could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog. Or you might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in your town and post it online. Or you might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube. All these might be considered acts of journalism, even if they don’t go beyond simple observation at the scene of an important event.
At a time when Nigerians used the internet to mobilise protests against the removal of fuel subsidy, the findings of a recent academic research released by Oxford University found that citizen journalism is on the slow but gradual rise in Nigeria and that the traditional media is waking up to it. The study, which had Sahara Reporters as its case study placed Sahara Reporters, the citizen journalism website, as Nigeria’s first leading citizen website.
The academic research conducted by Sunday Dare, a Nigerian Journalist, who earlier had studied media and public policy at Harvard University took a first objective stab at the theory and practice of citizen journalism in Nigeria, how far it has come, what impact it is making in terms of advancing democratic rights and institutions, and how it has given the people voice and a platform to query their government. The study revealed that Sahara Reporters scored high in blazing the trail, especially exposing corruption and combining advocacy journalism with mainstream journalism.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Citizen journalism has been criticized by its opponents in Nigeria. Some of the critics believe that citizen journalism lacks veracity. Most Nigerians do not believe stories from citizen journalists. It is believed in some quarters that they spread false hood. Citizen journalism fuels civil unrest, political instability and ethno-religious crisis. This angle of criticism peaked during the nationwide protests that greeted the removal of fuel subsidy in January 2012. It was believed in some quarters that citizen journalists misinformed the activists, making them to gang up against the government. However, that was perceived, the aim of the protest was partially achieved as there was a huge reduction in the pump price of fuel.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is therefore stated as follows:
i. To find out the role of citizen journalism in Nigeria.
ii. To determine the extent to which Nigeria have embraced citizen journalism.
iii. To assess the impact of citizen journalism in promoting good in Nigeria.
iv. To find out the challenges of citizen journalism in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
In this study, an attempt will be sufficiently made to answer the following questions.
i. What role does citizenship journalism play in Nigeria?
ii. To what degree have Nigeria embraced citizen journalism?
iii. How has citizen journalism help in promoting good governance in Nigeria?
iv. What are the challenges of citizen journalism in Nigeria?
1.5 Scope of Study
The study will be centered basically on ‘Audience Perception of Citizen Journalism in Nigeria – A Case Study of Sahara Reporters’. The study will examine audience perception considering the demographic factor of Auchi people such as, education background, age, sex, marital status e. t. c
1.6 Significance of the Study
Citizen journalism offers professional and non-professional journalists alike opportunities to be active participants in news content creation. With it, members of the public are no longer helpless passive consumers of news. They are now content creators. Citizen journalism has broken the hitherto seemingly endless monopoly of the mainstream media. As such, journalism is today democratic and participatory. According to Educause Learning Initiative (2007), by granting access to just anyone to cover the news, citizen journalism presents a more personal, nuanced view of events and has the potential to cultivate communities of people with a common interest. The fluidity of this approach puts more emphasis on the publishing of information rather than the filtering. Conversations happen in the community for all to see. In contrast, traditional news organizations are set up to filter information before they publish it.” In its true nature, citizen journalism allows no room for gate keeping. In this brand of journalism, information gets to the members of public, who are directly involved in content creation, raw, ‘naked’ and undiluted.
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