Citizen Journalists: Reporting Where Journalists Will Not
While looking for citizen journalists I came across a fascinating example that is taking place in Syria. Although it is not one piece of journalism, it is a very important, and needed, movement for the citizen journalists there. In 2015, Zaina Erhaim won the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism for helping to train citizen journalists in Aleppo, Syria. Her accomplishments include, “train[ing] about 100 citizen reporters from inside Syria, approximately a third of them women, in print and TV journalism, and has helped establish many of the new emerging independent newspapers and magazines in the war torn country” . These citizen journalists are providing the news in this part of Syria that is being distributed in worldwide presses, but the benefits that are afforded to other journalists are not being passed on to citizen journalists who are risking their lives .
The citizen journalists are producing work that would not otherwise be accessible to professional journalists, either because they are not willing to go into these areas of Syria, or because professionals would not have the local connections with individuals to get the story. This is allowing stories to be told from a perspective that would be non-existent if it were not for these citizens. Even though these citizen journalists may not be considered professional, they are filling a void in order to make their reality visible. This is especially important for the women journalists who are being able to have a louder voice in their community by contributing their stories of local events. With this journalism there is some bias, especially considering the reports can be about terrorism in the local area, which is a daily reality, but that doesn’t make their story any less important, but rather more real and credible since it is impacting them so directly. Especially in this circumstance, citizen journalism is allowing a greater voice to the typically unheard.
In the future, I think it would be better for most journalism, or at least more of it, to be like this because firsthand accounts from people that are deeply affected by the events. This brings a more human element to news to which I believe more people would be able to resonate with while consuming the information. The downside to this, as stated by Erhaim, is that these journalists are doing the real work without any of the similar benefits the “professionals” while facing a greater risk. Ultimately, I believe it would be better to have citizen journalists with editors at organizations to help push content.