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Week 3: What is the role of the Citizen?

May 24, 2011

Righty-o… It’s week 3 and blogging begins!

Citizen journalism is a prevalent sight today with blogs and social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

The seminar this week was presented by Siti Raudhah, Pham Hoang Anh & Nur Haryanti on the role of the citizen in terms of journalism.

As much as citizen journalism can help to keep watch on the media by playing the role of a watch dog, another question remains.

Citizens are not properly trained in journalistic theories, as such reporting tends to be one-sided as they would come from their own point of view and not being objective in their reports.

And what about newspapers who take up views from these “journalists” and spun them up into reports just like the Utusan Malaysia, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO – one of the main parties under Malaysia’s ruling coalition; the Barisan Nasional or the National Front) owned publication recently?

The link to the report is here. <http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/info.asp?y=2011&dt=0507&pub=utusan_malaysia&sec=Muka_Hadapan&pg=mh_01.htm&arc=hive&gt;

As the report is in Malay, I shall provide a simple translation.

The report takes on the basis of the two pro-UMNO bloggers; that is <bigdogdotcom.blogspot.com> and <marahku.blogspot.com> claims to say that the opposition party (Democratic Action Party or DAP; in this report) has made plans with the Federation of Christian Pastors of Malaysia to make Christianity the official religion of Malaysia and promote a Christian as a Prime Minister.

This report has created a lot of debate online by independent news websites such as <malaysiakini.com> and <themalaysianinsider.com>

There are two points that I would like to make here. They are agenda setting and the usage of blogs in news reports.

Firstly, is agenda-setting. People are what they read. Agenda setting is described as the news media having a large influence on the audience as the editors decide what gets to be published news and be distributed to the people. Would agenda-setting be considered ethical in order to accomplish what our owners want? In the case of the Utusan, the Malaysian 13th General Election is looming around the corner, and it is believed that by stirring such issues on race and religion, they can help to increase votes in the Malay community for the ruling coalition.

Secondly, as Quinn & Lamble (2008) suggests, blogs have the potential to assist reporters with their research when writing their stories. Blogs give a better insight to a certain issue from the citizens’ point of view. Coming back to Utusan’s case; spinning up a news report from baseless bloggers- is it right to do so?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to ethics. I spoke to a senior editor; Stephanie Siaw, for The Borneo Post previously on ethics. According to her; “Ethics is what makes journalism a profession”. Quoting Quinn and Lamble (2008) again; doing research online and going all out to talk to your sources, should be balanced to maintain the quality of journalism.

As for the role of citizens, I believe that their blogs do play a role in a journalist’s work. Journalists can get better insights on a particular issue, thus having a broader view and more options in how they would want to write their stories.
References:
Quinn S & Lamble S 2008, Online Newsgathering: research and reporting for journalism, Focal Press, UK

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