CITIZEN’s have been urged to be proactive in steering developmental concerns in their communities through citizen journalism on social media platforms and community radio initiatives.
This was said during a one day citizen journalism boot camp held in Mutare today (Thursday) which was organized by the Media Centre in conjunction with Tellzim news.
The rise in digital journalism and ever-growing opportunity it affords gave birth to citizen journalism. which is a new type of journalism that is conducted by people who are not professional journalists but disseminate their stories on blogs and social media.
Media Centre director Earnest Mudzenga said people have been predominantly using citizen journalism for political persuasion, but encouraged citizens to focus more on the day to day developmental concerns, propagating for positive socioeconomic changes in their communities.
“Our main aim in this ongoing project is to equip our communities with skills and knowledge about citizen journalism. This is important to complement the mainstream media which often focuses on opinion leaders as the main news-makers for headlines, at the expense of people centred social issues which are very important at community level,” said Mudzenga.
Tellzim editor Passmore Kuzipa added that from the small human interest stories to the scandalous breaking news stories, citizenship journalists need to tell the community stories and amplify the community interests apolitically and factually.
“As citizen if you do not write true reflections about the problems in your communities, no one else will write about them because mainstream media is commercial and in most cases polarized on political and socio-economic issues. You should write your stories that focus on issues that affect you in your community and everyday life. The advantage is you do not have gatekeepers to censor you like what is done in the mainstream journalism,” said Kuzipa.
In his presentation on citizen journalism, Great Zimbabwe media lecturer Dr Last Alfandika said there is need to redefine citizen journalism and observe the principal journalism rule of being factual to avoid spreading fake news. “This training is important to redefine misconstrued elements about citizen journalism. You should know that as citizen journalist you are responsible for what you do. Do not write hearsay issues to avoid attracting reparations,” he said.
Adding,” You have to be responsible and operate within an ethical framework in regards to accuracy of reporting information as it is. You should not write in hiding or assume things, but write from an informed or firsthand view because in most cases you do not have the opportunity for verification.”
Dr Alfandika said plagiarism of posts on social media has been crippling citizen journalism, which explains why it is sometimes not taken seriously. He therefore urged people to post firsthand experiences and information. “Avoid infringing other people’s rights, which means not assuming but dealing with facts. Do not be absolute and alarming in reporting and use safe words like ‘alleged’ or ‘suspected’ where investigations are still being carried out,” he said.
Dr Alfandika urged the citizen journalism participants to know the standard journalism writing principle of using the 5Ws and H (Who, When, What, Where, Why and How}, to avoid leaving spaces of speculative gaps in their stories.
The programme drew participants from the mainstream media, freelance journalists, online bloggers, active citizen journalists and civic society. The citizen journalism boot camp programme which will be ongoing has so far been done in Chiredzi, Masvingo and Harare.