This article was prepared for Ukrainian journal "Civic society".
The new media, web 2.0, citizen journalism, media democracy, social networks, blogs – these terms have become customary all over the world over recently. Changes are evidently going on all over the world. A post office, newsstand, TV set, radio set, bulletin board, shop, venue, diary, bookcase, player, archive, library – these are items and places, that had almost nothing in common in our consciousness some 20 years ago, suddenly became on the Internet just a few clicks away. This publication is dedicated to a phenomenon of citizen or civic journalism. How does it affect the work of the traditional media? How can citizens use the Internet for their activity? What opportunities does citizen journalism offer for the protection of civil rights and civil society development?
First and foremost, the success of a public organization or an advocacy campaign for civil interests depends on the effectiveness of a system of communicating and informing the coalition members, citizens, officials, politicians and representatives of the traditional media. It is citizen journalism that offers an opportunity to disseminate information, mobilize lots of people for an action within a couple of hours and involve thousands of volunteers in monitoring of actions of authorities.
In the near future, citizen journalism will shape opinions and positions on a par with the traditional media. That is why civil society institutions must take the lead in the use and dissemination of citizen journalism tools.
In the publication "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information", Chris Willis suggests the following definition for citizen journalism, "It is the act of citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. Intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."
With the emergence of Internet, common citizens deprived journalists of their exclusive right to disseminate news and information. Mark Glaser, a theorist of the new media, notes, "Cheap online tools have given anyone with a Net connection the chance to start a publication, a Weblog, a chat room, a bulletin board. Citizen media sites focused on tiny communities give journalists a role as content shepherds, whipping the chaos of reader-generated content into a manageable morass. Ordinary citizens have their voices heard in the media with hyper-local online publications that promise to publish nearly every article, opinion and photo that anyone might submit."
Article 34 of the Ukrainian Constitution laid a legal foundation for the civic journalism development. It guarantees everyone "the rightfreely collect, store, use and disseminate information by oral, written or other means of his or her choice."
The term "journalism" appeared in the 1830s, just when newspapers mastered the printing technology by means of a steam press and started disseminating their weekly publications in the East of the U.S. The printing press allowed distributing newspapers among a huge number of readers at the low price. At the same time, the demand for advertisement rapidly increased and money flooded into the newspaper business.
Hence, in the 19-20th centuries, ordinary citizens turned out noncompetitive compared to rich publishing houses with their million circulations. The invention of television finished shaping a new media system and its division into the media and the audience.
The Internet marked a new stage in the media evolution. It gives citizens the chance to disseminate information on a par with the media. The Internet is a universal and cheap tool for anyone, who wants to be heard.
Below are a few examples of how topics highlighted by citizen journalists drew attention of a mega audience.
In 1991, the Los Angeles Police Department was accused of brutality. A bystander videotaped beating of Rodney King, which resulted in the riots a year later, when his assailants were acquitted. on another video taken in 2006 by mobile phone, a police officer punched a suspect until his face was bloody. This video was posted on the Internet and the incident has been in the headlines of the U.S press all the fall long. Activists created a special site, the Cop Watch L.A. (http://copwatchla.org), where they asked to publish police terrorism videos and photos.
After the Orange Revolution of 2004, Yuriy Lutsenko was designated to the office of the Minister of Interior of Ukraine. The man, who repeatedly had to deal with law-enforcement agencies under the old system, chaired the system under the new government and got the chance to change it. Citizen activists created a special column "For Lutsenko" at the site Maidan.org.ua. In this column, they freely published news about facts of violations and abuse of power on the part of officers from the Ministry of Interior. According to the Maidan, over 2 years, the column helped citizens from many Ukrainian cities. The best and strongest responses were received from the Interior Ministry departments of Kharkiv, Crimea, Kremenchuk and small towns of the Donetsk region. The column "For Lutsenko" became a unique means of quick and immediate contact of citizens with the Minister of Interior.
Cocaine Kate Moss
Supermodels like Kate Moss will have to closely watch bystanders with mobile phones. Celebrity’s boyfriend Pete Doherty always gets into trouble due to his drug addiction but as evidenced by video shot in some American saloon, Kate Moss snorts line after line not worse than her junkie lover does. After the video was broadcast, Kate lost contracts with H&M, H Stern, Chanel and Burberry. The top model had to spend several weeks in the rehabilitation clinic. Colombian Vice President Francisco Calderon condemned Kate’s behavior and said that celebrities like her make drug addiction popular. "Kate Moss helps fuel cocaine wars," he added.
Kharkiv Mayor Dobkin
In late September 2007, a video was posted on the Internet, on which Kharkiv Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin tries to record a text of his address to residents. on the background, one can hear a voice of a person, who commands the Mayor in a rough and uncivil manner and tells him in abusive language how to seat and how to pronounce words. Mr. Dobkin uses foul terms in response. on the first day, 100,000 visitors watched the video on the YouTube. The Ukrainian video clip became one of the most popular ones all over the world. From the Internet the clip went on TV channels. The country learnt about the true face of Kharkiv authorities. The clip is available at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?vq3z2wheJWyk
"Light a Candle!" Action
The "Light a Candle" action started at 16.00 p.m. on November 24, 2007. Thousands of candles were lit at Ukrainian squares and streets in commemoration of victims of the Famine of 1932-33. on the eve of the event, information about the action was posted on the Internet, blogs, forums and the citizen journalism sites. A couple of days before the action, people sent each other a message reading, "At 16.00 p.m. on November 24, 2007, light a candle in commemoration of the Famine victims." Blogers posted special banners, thereby making visitors aware about the action. The atmosphere of preparation for the event and the intensity of message exchange reached such a level that the action was announced in the traditional media. As a result, from their windows people could see candles lit in the windows of their neighboring. The action inspired the sense of shared history and deep cohesion in the hearts of million Ukrainians.
Strengths in the Work of Citizen Journalists:
1. They pay attention to topics that slipped attention of the traditional media motivated by financial advantage, power or business interests of their owners
2. They write sincerely and in an interesting manner, since they do it not as an editorial task but voluntarily
3. They have a profession different from journalism; it is rather a hobby and therefore, they are more competent in some topics than journalists, who have a couple of days to study a material
4. They initiate a social dialogue; they not only publish materials but also involve the broad public in their discussion
5. They pay attention to mistakes of the traditional media, comment and supplement publications with new details
6. They sometimes come to the scene immediately, much quicker than professionals
7. They are able to publish local news and cover information from the regions, where the traditional media do not reach
8. They publish information as a component of a broader campaign and help organize activity in real life.
Hence, citizen journalism goes beyond the scope of purely journalist rhetoric and covers such areas as citizen activity, citizen action, social initiative, social mobilization etc.
Foreign Experience of Using the Internet in Socially Important Projects
The Project is a free, open-source, non-profit and non-partisan web resource with a mission to make Congress more transparent and encourage civic engagement. It enables people to send open letters to U.S. politicians and public figures. Access to all the letters is open. Hence, on visiting a page dedicated to a certain politician, one can browse through all the open letters sent to him or her by citizens.
It is a collaborative Project to produce a directory of people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. A primary purpose of the SourceWatch is documenting the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and public relations professionals engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion and policy. Everyone can freely create a new page in this encyclopedia and edit the existing ones. For instance, Hilary Clinton’s page has been edited more than 500 times, each time adding new details and specifying the published news.
Tobacco wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco)
The tobacco encyclopedia is written collaboratively by Internet users from all around the world. It is one of the largest English-language tobacco database: history, legislation, profiles of tobacco companies, health effects of tobacco smoking, advertising, anti-tobacco campaigns etc.
The Witness is an international human rights organization that uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. Initiative groups are set up around loaded materials in order to respond the incidents. Also, there is an interesting opportunity to indicate your own name, second name and address. After that the site’s staff will send a paper letter signed by you to the real address of, say, the Office of Attorney General of a country, reading, "Dear Mr./Mrs. N., I, Doroshenko Ivan Petrovych, being deeply concerned over destiny of students detained at the rally … and so on and so forth." Hence, many letters from different countries are sent to the address of the Office of Attorney General, which makes the impression that the whole world is watching the proceedings.
The site invites visitors to load and discuss documents for official use only or secret papers, which however are socially important. You managed to get copies of contracts? Orders? Job descriptions? Load these documents on the site and the whole world will get access to information evidencing such violations as abuse of office, negligence and breach of the law by companies or governmental agencies.
The example of this site is indicative. The Sunlightlabs is designed to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure. Different organizations – both non-profits and government agencies – were asked to help track the 536 sites of Congress members, though they all used different IDs. Hence, the goal of this site is to create an up-to-date database that gives basic clerical information about members of Congress (phone, e-mail, district etc.) via API. Moreover, the site provides converter methods to convert between the different IDs, thereby facilitating bringing together data about the same person from different sources.
The site is launched by the British Government and is dedicated to e-petitions. Users are welcome to sign and create petitions; view and sign any current petitions; and see the Government response to any completed petitions. All petitions that are submitted to this website will be accepted, as long as they are in accordance with its terms and conditions. The aim is to enable as many people as possible to make their views known.
If a user enters his or her details, he or she will be added to a queue of other people in a respective constituency. When enough have signed up, his or her MP will get sent an email. It’ll say, "25 of your constituents would like to hear what you’re up to. Hit reply to let them know". If they don’t reply, nothing will happen, until a user’s MP gets a further email, which says there are now 50, then 75, 100, 150 — until it is nonsensical not to reply and start talking.
One of the sites that helps organize people into groups – Meetups – powerful enough to make a difference. Meetups help people find others in their area, who shares their interests; learn, teach and share things; make friends and have fun; rise up, stand up, unite and make a difference; be a part of something bigger – both locally and globally.
The British Project that calls citizens to report, view or discuss local problems like graffiti, fly tipping, broken paving slabs or street lighting. This enables city community services to quickly respond and eliminate respective problems.
The PledgeBank is a site to help people get things done, especially things that require several people. Many good things don’t happen because people aren’t organized enough to do them. The PledgeBank allows users to set up pledges and then encourages other people to sign up to them. A pledge is a statement of the form "I will do something, if a certain number of people will help me do it." So, to do things effectively, human, financial and other resources are accumulated.
Not all projects descried in this publication could effectively work in Ukraine. Yet, the use of the new media and citizen journalism tools is capable of considerably enhancing the capacity of any organization. Below is the list of recommendations, which will help work effectively with the new media in Ukraine:
1. Create a blog on the Livejournal.com and Hiblogger.net – these are the two engines with the largest socially active Ukrainian audience. Write there about the activity of your organization at least once a week. Start to communicate with other blogers, comment their blogs and make new acquaintances and friends. The more acquaintances and friends you have on the Internet, the stronger influence you have in the new media and the more human resources you can mobilize, if needed.
2. Register at the citizen journalism sites at: H.ua, Maidan: Maidan.org.ua and Narodna Pravda: narodna.pravda.com.ua. Periodically publish news, articles and photos from the life of your organization.
3. Register at the LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com and Vkontakte.ru – these are social networks, where the Ukrainians communicate most actively. These sites can help you quickly and easily keep contacts with friends, colleagues and people interested in your organization’s activity.
4. Put the address of your blog on the business card, promo materials and in the signature to all your e-mail messages.
5. Register at the YouTube.com to work with video materials on the Internet and at the Flickr.com to work with photos. Use e-mail at the Gmail.com and FireFox browsers and ICQ to instantly deliver messages. Install the Skype program (Skype.com) to get phone connection to the Internet.
6. Always take a USD Flash Drive, mobile phone with cameras, photo camera and dictaphone with you. Be ready at any time to shoot, document and publish news and information on the Internet.
7. Remember and don’t lose your login and passwords to all the sites you’ve registered at :)
Some Terms and Definitions
The new media – a general term covering all forms of electronic communication that have appeared or will appear since the original mainly text-and-static picture forms of online communication. New media usually includes any and all of these: blogs, social networking, citizen journalism resources, Wiki-pages, subcast sites, online games/virtual worlds, social tags, digg-sites and open problem sites.
Blog – is a website, where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. As of December 2007, more than 112 million blogs were tracked throughout the world.
Subcasts – audio-clips recorded by means of computer programs. Anyone can invent an idea of a radio program, process respective audio-materials and post it on the Internet, thereby having created a personal radio channel. Every citizen can work as a radio station without the need to fight for frequencies, licenses etc.
Citizen journalism sites – Internet editions that enable people to post a text, video or photo without talks with an editorial office, without the need to become a journalist there, without prior agreements on subjects, style and format of publications.
Forum – web application for holding discussions and posting user-generated content. Unlike on a blog, information on a forum is organized not by date of posting but by the topic.
Wiki-page – software that allows users to create, edit and link web pages easily. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and power community websites. These wiki sites are often also referred to as wikis. For example, Wikipedia is considered one of the best wikis and the world’s largest Internet-encyclopedia created on the above principle.
Digg-site – a site based on the principle of the Digg.com Project. Anyone can post a link to any news on the Internet. Readers constantly vote for news. Those that have the largest number of votes are on the first page. The most popular digg-site in the CIS is the News2.ru.
How to Organize a Campaign in Ukraine’s New Media
Suppose you have known that a consignment of expensive vehicles with a defective breaking system was delivered to Ukraine. Your organization made a series of examinations and confirmed this fact. Though, the traditional media ignore your press releases and calls because they do not want to conflict with suppliers of expensive vehicles.
The scheme of an information campaign in the new media looks as follows. You post an article on your blog and then on the citizen journalism sites, forums and blogs dedicated to auto-vehicles and traffic security. You load respective photos and videos on the YouTube and Flickr.com. You create links to the article in your profiles on social networks. Then you send the link via e-mail and ISQ to your friends and ask them to send it further, enter your blog and voice their opinions. Create a subcast and post it on the subcast sites. Post the link on the digg-sites. Create an e-petition with a requirement to withdraw the vehicle consignment from sale and call other users to sign it. Search articles in the Wikipedia linked to auto-vehicles and edit them, having posted respective links on your blog. Draw banners and address blogers with a request to post these banners on their blogs.
In a few hours, your topic will be one of the most debated on the Internet. At this stage, the traditional media will have to respond, deepen into the matter and prepare articles, clips for TV and radio news programs and messages for Internet editions. You will have to keep track of all these publications and create links to them on your blog.
As a rule, the traditional media will conduct their own mini-examinations and add new details to your topic. Now, you can make not only information you had at first but also new data provided by professional journalists the subject of discussion on the Internet. At this stage, it is quite possible to mobilize people for specific actions: collect signatures, hold a meeting, picket or other action, take beautiful photos and again post all this on your blog, the citizen journalism sites etc. Don’t forget to invite the traditional media, which will now be more inclined to contact, to the event you’ve organized.
The Peyzazhna (Landscape) Alley: the Campaign in the Ukrainian Citizen Media
In the morning on December 6, 2007, notwithstanding perennial opposition of the public, trees on Peyzazhna (Landscape) Alley in Kyiv were being chopped. The construction of a new building for the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine was planned on that place. The event evoked a wave of protest in the citizen media. Blogs, forums and the citizen journalism sites posted videos and photos from the scene. Bystanders heatedly discussed tree chopping, shared new data, analyzed documents, coordinated follow-up activities and protest actions. Information spread on the Livejournal, appeared on the HighWay, Maidan and Narodna Pravda. Citizens loaded hundreds of pictures and videos and the traditional media’s sites copied them. High public activity drew attention of the traditional media. on December 10, the site of the Foreign Ministry informed, "In connection with regular publications and close attention of some media to the construction of the apartment house, the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine deprived the "Ukrainian Property" JSC of its authority for the construction for the reason of the non-compliance with some agreement provisions by this Company and the strong public response to the incident." Civic activists won.
 Bowman, S. and Willis, C. "We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information." 2003, The Media Center at the American Press Institute.
 Glaser, M. "The New Voices: Hyperlocal Citizen Media Sites Want You (to Write)!" November 17, 2004, online Journalism Review.