The Rise of Citizen Journalism
From the time Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press up to the time the Internet amazed the world, people and societies changed bizarrely and distinctively. The big question is: Did man notice these changes? Is man aware that he is the one being programmed by the techies he had created? Now is the time to check whether that maxim – “Mind over matter”- is already out of context. Let’s look at the changes, reflect them with the present time, and understand how the media will dictate our future…
The advent of technological advancement led to the intensified and dramatic demassification of the mass media.
Less than a half-century ago, both TV and radio stations were considered as the ‘generalist’ model, offering any type of program for the general public audience based on the concept of public service model in broadcasting. The rise of the print media shared this concept, although the subsequent years saw a change in the usual format.At the dawn of the new millennium, media elites began to realize the need to change the format and marketing strategy and leadership approach, which led to the birth of demassification, a deviation from the very concept of the word mass media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience.
The development of technology, which brought about changes in all aspects of human life, also introduced a new concept and hope to media elites. And this was seen about two decades ago when the mass media was eroded by interlinked changes. The1980s saw a massive rise of FM radio stations and an advent of more terrestrial television channels, which led to the fragmentation of the national audience through a policy of formatting. ABS-CBN began to realize the importance of formatting, as the station became more conscious of and responsive to the choice of viewers where it based its program content. This saw the introduction of “infotainment” in the country by the Lopez-owned TV station.
The end of Marcos regime was followed by a government-backed quest for cronies-owned TV and radio stations, including newspaper companies. This situation led to the rebirth of Philippine free press. This also took the economy of broadcasting into the market place, thus turning the listener-viewer into consumer. These shifts rubbed away the traditional concept of the public service model in broadcasting.
Through formatting, the content of TV, radio and newspapers, developed and evolved, as it was based on the choice, interests and economic status of the national audience, and reflected with the changing political climate, economic stability, and technological shift.
Age of formatting
Then came the age of telenovelas dominated by most Mexican soap operas in the early ‘90s. Marimar, a very popular TV series of the RPN the time, triggered the explosion of Mexican-export TV dramas that satisfied the taste of most Filipino viewers. This scenario was even triggered by the then increasing advertising placements.
In TV, the fragmentation ranges from early morning news programs like Unang Hirit (GMA7) and Alas Singko y Media (ABS-CBN) intended for office-goers preparing for work to children-oriented programs like cartoons for kids preparing for school to talk shows for housewives and housemaids to lunch-time variety shows like Eat Bulaga and Wowowee for the general viewers to primetime news programs like 24 Oras and TV Patrol World and to teledramas for the drama addicts. Documentary and other public affairs programs are saved for insomniacs and graveyard-shift workers.
In print, aside from the main course, which is the news page, national broadsheets like Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin, offer sections like entertainment, life style, business, sports, world news, and even obituaries. There’s also this Sunday-treat job section for job-seekers, a manifestation that the burgeoning number of jobless is part of the of editors’ target market. Apparently, this is goaded by the fact that there is a big fraction of unemployed in the country.
Also in print, fragmentation extended to the introduction of new types of reading materials. A very good example of this was the rise of comics in the 80’s and early 90’s. Its reach depends on the age, choice and interests of the reading public. There are comics for kids, adults, anime fanatics, Marvel followers, cartoon addicts, and even sports enthusiasts.
In magazines, aside from the usual political, adult, entertainment, sports and lifestyle periodicals, now included in newsstands are readings offering such genres as computer, games, tools and gadgets, technology, cars, jobs, cooking, self-help, etc.
FM stations are also scrambling to take their share in the pie. Now there are FM stations for hip-hops, nerdy, classic-lovers, pop fanatics, RNB and rock listeners, etc.
So media business has now become a take-your-pick trend. Unlike in the past, DJs of most FM station now deliver their spiel in the vernacular or taglish, a manifestation that most listeners were already tired of the usual formal or classic type of disk jockeying.
But the story does not stop there. With the arrival of internet and cellphone technology, media elites now have something to chew about. A new technology, which bred, and continuously breeds, new trends and cultures, has come to defy the usual order of things in print and in broadcast journalism- offering a different kind of space for media-users, but giving media entrepreneurs a run for their money.
With the sophistication of mobile phones, you can now watch your favorite TV show, or visit your preferred website, or check your latest email message via this hand-held, portable gizmo. On the other hand, Internet seems making things possible. With the use of computer, you can now do two or so things at a time- like listening to your favorite radio station while playing internet game, or scanning your favorite online news organization while surfing. That is, multitasking- doing certain tasks at a time. Now people don’t have to be restricted to the pages of the newspaper they read.
Through internet, one can shop, gamble, place bet, listen, watch, interact, play, surf… name it. You can do it all through the net. This technology also introduced words with new meaning such as surf, burn, boot, window, etc, and also new words like google, screensaver, modem, podcasting, etc.
So how do we link internet to the demassification of the mass media? How does it change the formatting, choice, system, and the so-called media culture?
Aside from the fact that internet is a very vital aspect in the military, in business, and in almost all areas of social, political and human life, it is also a very powerful tool in decision-making, and in tilting the balance of man’s most sensitive organ – the human brain.
Because many are now dependent on the net, it can be said that it is a last stand for freedom.
Did you surf the net lately? If you did, then you must be familiar with the different sites that usually pop up on your computer screen whenever you google via the search engine. Sites like Yahoo!, google, youtube.com are among the most popular sites that internet-users visit.
Through World Wide Web, anybody can create his own web site or post his blogs. Podcasting is also part of the Internet feature that allows e-users to distribute multimedia files, such as audio and video through the Internet. It has now become the largest marketplace of ideas, making it the most influential and the most powerful tool ever invented in history.
Based on the two surveys conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 8 million American adults say they have created blogs, and blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users. This established new contours for the blogosphere.
It said that 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs, while 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.
A weblog or blog, according to wikipedia.com, is a type of website where entries are made (such as in a journal diary), displayed in a reverse chronological order. It often provides commentary or news and information on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries.
Individual’s preferences or choices of sports or news are just fingertips away. Analysts admit that the growing patronage of the public of the Internet has caused the decline in the readership of newspapers, and in the viewership of television channels.
The World Wide Web
The net also paved the way for the rise of young business-minds who ventured into cyber trade.
Some people who cannot afford to establish a very costly newspaper company or TV station saw the future of journalism in the World Wide Web.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) is the pioneer in the country among media organizations that ventured into online journalism. The PCIJ, which caused the ouster of former Pres. Joseph Estrada owing to its series of critical exposes, saw the importance of web blog in attracting media patronage, in establishing a strong following that actively interact and participate in public online discussion, and in expanding its area of influence.
The internet really is truly a free market of ideas. It’s entirely democratic, unrestrained, unlimited, although its impact is seen to be perilous to a certain number of internet-users like the young people.
Generally, Internet serves as an alternative to the traditional mass media. It also serves as a vacuum-filler to whatever these media cannot or fail to offer to the growing number of media users. However, it cannot be denied that the Internet is the potent competitor of radio, TV and the print media. It provides more comprehensive fragmented preferences that hook on users of varying choices and interests. Now sports enthusiasts can just google their preferred sports and they don’t have to scan the pages of a newspaper that offer a buffet-type of options.
The search- or see-all-you-can capability of the Internet commands a growing patronage among media users, and these factors may result in the shrinking in the patronage of the traditional mass media.
Advantages and criticisms
It may be true that one of the advantages of online journalism is the compliance with that primary element in journalism that is timeliness. But it is necessary that a journalist is bound to observe deference to the Journalist Code of Ethics to see to it that he got the correct information for his article.
A journalist’s job is not to get information out to the public as soon as possible, but to it make sure the information is credible and unassailable.
The gradual rise of citizen journalism helps media editors in many ways. Through their blogs, participatory journalists inform editors of their choices and interests. Bloggers also update the editors whether there is a need “to kill or not to kill” a particular story. Most of the time bloggers react to issues that directly and largely affect them. In the country, the PCIJ has probably the most number of participatory journalists or bloggers.
The PCIJ allows bloggers to react to its stories. This mutual relationship provides for a space where bloggers can post their comments on a particular issue, thus, giving the writer an idea whether to do further investigation, or make a follow-up on a certain story. This system also keeps the flow of ideas, and warrants public opinion or discussion.
According to the MNSBC, the internet is a growing source of the traditional media. Internet users are more likely to use streaming audio and video for media coverage of breaking news. In the United States, a survey shows that 65% of American internet users often use internet as a source of news which outshines magazines and is closely reaching radio and television.
It was said that over 600 million people world wide access the internet daily in universities, libraries, cafes and homes. The web is now rapidly being adopted as the primary source for information in the workplace. When news breaks during the day, expect working people to turn to online news. More and more people in the work place utilize the net as a primary news media source. As the internet medium matures, more people are trying online news media.
The participatory journalists
This situation is giving the traditional media elites the creeps whether to change their format or initiate a change in style or approach or join the bandwagon. As a lot of people are turning to online news media, more and more young minds see a sheer business opportunity in the net.
A small number of citizens or participatory journalists is likewise expanding. In some ways, participatory journalists are being utilized by established news organizations to further expand their market. There’s a possibility that these new breed of media men would learn to break into online business, thus, paving the way for the rise of new media elites.
Citizen journalists are now making waves in the cyberspace.
One reason why most people now turn to the net is because of the incessant technological innovation, which makes the cost of both computer and Internet service cheaper and the tag price of online domain more affordable. Rental fees were also made easy to pay these days allowing kids and teenagers to join cyber activities.
By and large, the rise of this new medium offering one-in-all capabilities gives a new hope to some inferior sectors – such as political, social, religious, ethnic, academic and civic sectors, and any other cause oriented groups. This may foster what this writer calls the “Sectarian Concept,” meaning, the internet can be or may possibly be used by sectors neglected or on the rise to advance or pole-vault their own interests.
Democracy vs. anarchy
In the Philippines, the PCIJ also experienced similar political intimidation and business pressure after the group published critical online articles of the Arroyo administration, particularly about the “Hello, Garci” controversy.
Aside from its usual text format, PCIJ also allows its readers to place blogs and podcast. It also has a radio channel to further give its followers a clearer sound bits and audio presentation of a particular issue of the day.
On the other hand, the cyberspace is also being used as a propaganda machine. Political and even pseudo-religious extremists saw the importance of the net in indoctrination. The superstructures (e.g. governments) use this new medium (another powerful superstructure) to disseminate their interests and intentions.
Definitely, Internet is now becoming the melting pot of peoples’ ideas, interests, intentions and deeds. One way or another, this technology will give birth to a new kind of civilization.
That’s why there is a possibility that the cultures that we have today may be replaced by some different, bizarre kinds of norms in the future.
Perhaps, suffice it to say that while we live in this status quo, let’s smell and enjoy the so-called democracy that we have now for tomorrow we will see a new brand of ‘anarchy’ brought about by these indulging new media.