Today’s Viewers, Tomorrow's Participants

Oct 182010

By Wael Al-Ansary

Translated by Aisha El-Awady

Fifty young men and women, ranging in age from their early twenties to their late thirties, came from six different provinces in Egypt to attend the International Center for Journalists’ (ICFJ) Citizen Journalism Workshop in Egypt. The trainees included students, researchers, employees and house wives.

The workshop was conducted by thirteen professional instructors whose goal was to transform each trainee from being the typical passive viewer to becoming an active, interacting participant who partakes in the coverage of events.

“The citizen journalism program is a cultural media project which aims at creating awareness in the community concerning current events,” said Dr. Hanzada Fikry, the Director of the training program at the International Center for Journalists.

“This will lead to them becoming interactive participants in the coverage of such events rather than mere bystanders waiting for the news to be delivered to them by official media outlets.”

She went on to say that, “The citizen journalist is a citizen that not only conveys the news but one that has a journalistic sense, allowing him/her to convey and cover events with a great deal of objectivity and integrity.”

She explained that the citizen journalist is aware of the importance of uncovering and conveying the facts with a high degree of journalistic standards. This differs from conventional journalists who are more interested in covering particular events, according to the regulatory frameworks and editorial policies of the media outlets they work for.

“The program revolves around several main ideas such as written journalistic skills, journalistic ethics and values, e-journalism skills, blogging and social networking sites,” said Fikry, explaining that the workshop will take place over a period of 11 months.

Professor Hassan Mekki, the Managing Editor of the News Section at IslamOnline.net, explained that the citizen journalist is an individual who is highly aware of local events, sensitive to the concerns of his fellow countrymen and always on the alert for major and critical developments.

This can be achieved by acquiring basic journalistic skills such as writing and editing of news stories which allow him to address the issues at hand with a comprehensive and clear vision, says Mekki.

He went on to say that citizen journalism is a global phenomenon and that the citizen journalist has become a partner or, rather, another source of news, side by side with other media outlets such as television and newspapers.

On the other hand, Mekki cautioned that if the coverage is not accomplished with a high degree of objectivity and credibility it will have a negative impact rather than a positive one, and here lies the significance of this workshop.

According to Aisha Misbah, a researcher and Assistant Lecturer at the Faculty of Mass Communication, Cairo University, Egypt, citizen journalism and blogging are forms of liberated journalism. Therefore, media outlets should take into consideration the importance of getting involved with followers of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and consequently, galvanizing the public in a secure and sustainable way.

The International Center for Journalists is a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Since 1984, the Center’s aim has been to raise the standards of journalism; ICFJ offers workshops and training to reporters around the globe and has worked directly with more than 55,000 journalists from 176 countries.