What are Citizen Journalists? Here’s how everyday Indians are shaping the news

Citizen journalism’s rise is indicative of active citizens in India. It gives power to an individual who can act as a watchdog against authority.

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India's media landscape is going through a major shift. Citizen journalism has become a powerful force that shapes public opinion due to the introduction of smartphones and social media.

A good example was seen in Assam floods. Though mainstream media hardly penetrated the most isolated areas, citizen journalists on platforms like Facebook and Twitter were able to record first hand how devastating it had been. The situation became national news when videos began circulating online showing desperate villagers in waist deep water. This forced government authorities to act faster.

Beyond Breaking News

Citizen journalism does not only break news stories. In March 2024, a video by some farmers of Maharashtra went viral thus exposing alleged corruption in a government crop procurement scheme. That marked the beginning of an official inquiry as people were very angry with this kind of citizen led investigation. Other times, they also hold their municipal authorities accountable for things such as unsanitary conditions or lack of development in their settlements.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

There are still impediments which may hinder citizen journalism from realizing its full potential. It is difficult to verify whether user generated content is true or false. Misinformation and fake news can spread at an alarming rate. Similarly, constant learning is needed in order to maintain good ethical standards and responsible journalism among citizen journalists.

The future of media in India largely depends on working together. In addition, mainstream media houses have started to include verified citizen generated reports in their bulletins providing a wider perspective of events. CGNet, Swara and TruthLabs are some of the platforms which foster fact checking initiatives and responsible reporting ethics amongst citizen journalists.

A Force for Democracy

Citizen journalism’s rise is indicative of active citizens in India. It gives power to an individual who can act as a watchdog against authority as well as providing coverage on unreported issues. As India’s digital revolution takes shape, there will be even more responsibility placed on the shoulders of citizen journalists when narrating her story.