Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Editorials: Civic journalism plus . .
Civic journalism is basically pro viding people with "news and
information they need in order for them to behave as citizens,
decision makers in a democratic society."
Civic journalism has to do mainly with content of the newspaper and
how it can make readers act as citizens aware of their rights and
Content of news and information must convince the reader his duty
carries as much weight as his right to help shape public policy and
Without brandishing the label and in a more modest scale, Sun.Star
Cebu has been practicing civic journalism.
The paper has focused on jobs and the economy, peace and order,
orderly transfer of power, public funds, public education, official
conduct, plight of women and children, environment issues especially
air and water, urban blight, and neglect of the countryside. These are
major concerns of the community.
Civic journalism, we are told, starts with learning what is the
community's agenda and continues by pursuing that agenda.
We believe Sun.Star is on that track.
Sun.Star stories and commentaries on vigilante or vigilante-style
killings stab at the core of the peace and order issue. Cebu City
cannot have peace when faceless and nameless executioners can murder
defenseless people and go unpunished.
Sun.Star special reports on trafficking of women and children and the
problem of water give situation reports and chart courses of action.
Sun.Star, with news and opinion, has warned against power grab and the
imperative of constitutional transition but also argues against public
officials accused of cheating and graft and getting away with it.
True, Sun.Star regards its readers as consumers to whom goods and
services are sold. Papers survive on advertising revenue and Sun.Star
is no exception.
Sun.Star, however, treats its audience as more than consumers. As the
civic journalism concept sees it, readers are "citizens with
responsibilities of self-government."
Even as we put more effort into becoming better civic journalists
ourselves, we hope citizen journalists will help us in the job.
In trying to learn what the community agenda is, Sun.Star has turned
to views of focus groups, opinion surveys, and academic papers.
More extensively, we have scanned public opinion in subsections of
Sun.Star's Op-Ed pages (such as Talk Back, Speak Out, Text Forum,
Complaints Forum), in grievances and suggestions that land on our
Errors Desk, and in similar features in other media.
Through a network of journalists from Sun.Star Cebu and Sun.Star
Superbalita [Cebu], we have shortlisted what the public worries about.
Today, we launch the "Wanted: Citizen Journalists" project, in a
continuing effort to "reconnect with the real concerns that readers
have about the issues in their lives they care most about..."
On top of what we have been doing to cross whatever gap between the
paper and its readers, we have expanded our interaction structure in
the two papers and Sun.Star Cebu Online.
Citizen journalists can now report in text and photos and express
their opinions on community issues to print forums of the two papers
and to the web log "Citizen Journalist" (www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/cj).
What sees light on the website may go to print; what sees print may go
to the website, subject to editing rules and legal restraints and
rules of good taste.
Citizen journalists, we trust, can help us "ferret out issues of
interest to citizens who are not members of the elite." Those issues
can include their children's education, their security in and outside
their homes, and the economic future they face.
It will be a new and arduous task for journalists used to looking
largely at their own agenda. It will be new and even disconcerting to
a public used to sitting back and shunning citizenship duties.
Whatever the difficulties, whichever way the project goes, "Wanted:
Citizen Journalists" will be an exciting and challenging phase in
Sun.Star and community journalism.
(September 21, 2005 issue)