December 3, 2011

INDIA: You can change your world, one neighbourhood at a time

MUMBAI, India / Harmony -Celebrate Age / Archives


How Seniors Can Become Good Citizen Journalists


Movers and Doers
By Shishir Joshi

When 73 year-old Bernard M, a resident of suburban Andheri in Mumbai, woke up early one morning, as he usually did, he noticed that the massive Neem tree adjoining his building compound wall had come crashing down, damaging property, a ve­hicle and obstructing traffic. “What should we do?” Others in the society looked towards him for help. One, because they were too busy to do something about it themselves; and two, they knew he was resourceful enough to have all the answers.

This time, even Bernard was nonplussed. For two days, he fretted and fumed. Eventually, he managed to get hold of ‘someone’, who guided him properly. Within hours of mak­ing phone calls to the appropriate and designated officers, the tree had been lifted away and the solution was found. One full week of effort had gone by.

Situations like these are common—missing drainage cov­ers; unrepaired drains; water overflowing from badly connected pipelines; a potholed road where an old friend stumbles and falls; or a theft in your neighbourhood. If I ask most of you, “What did you do when you came to know of it?” the most common refrain would be, “What do I do? I don’t know whom to reach out to.”

Senior citizens, for their sheer experience over the years and maturity in dealing with situations, are best in such crisis-handling—but, only if trained well. 

That many of them have stepped back from active day jobs, have a com­mand over language and are better communicators also help tremendously in finding a solution. It goes without saying that the more mature you are, the more seriously you are taken by the powers that be, in any given situation. The choice is yours; either you build up anger and frustra­tion to add to your woes, or you become a citizen journal­ist and rationally solve the problem.

Seniors are ideal candidates to become citizen journalists. All you need is a sense of responsibility, maturity and the ability to read and write. Everything else can be learnt.

Do you need to be technology-savvy? Not really; but it always helps. But before that, let’s take a quick look at what citizen journalism is all about. You often read about it in the papers and hear it on news channels. In India, as broadcast journalism became more expensive, many news managers also saw it as a wonderful gimmick to have citi­zen ‘reporters’ across the country. These were people who passed on information to channels, free. In return, the channels offered these reporters their 15 seconds of fame.

But, by merely sending a picture, do you qualify to be a citizen journalist? Mainstream media may say yes. But if one judges by the integrity and rigours of good journalism, the answer is no. While the origins of citizen journalism are as old as journalism—when pamphlets and reports were issued by citizens—some of the most powerful pieces of journalistic writing can be traced back to the initiatives of citizens as reporters, not reporters as professionals as you see today.  

The author, Shishir Joshi, 42, is a senior Mumbai-based journalist and founder of JM Foundation for Excellence in Journalism.

Source: Harmony - Celebrate Age
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