“I know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house. The hole in your heart when you don’t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you. So I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my children.”


~ Barack Obama, New York Times

How to train yourself as a citizen journalist

At the outset, it is essential to recognize that citizen journalism comes in many forms, which makes it rather difficult to prescribe a training method for the practice. But, there is no shred of a doubt that with a little training, a citizen journalist can greatly improve the quality of whatever story they seek to tell, whether it’s through writing, video, audio, or photography.


First things first: a citizen journalist as the term suggests should strive to enhance civic engagement and participation. A citizen journalist needs to therefore train him or herself to have the right attitude that can contribute to the growth of the practice as well as expanding the rights of citizenship.


To train yourself as a citizen journalist, you have to understand what you are up for first, that is, to produce content that is trustworthy, fair and accurate. Citizen journalism is more than just stitching content together predicated by self-interest.


A citizen journalist needs to appreciate that whatever they produce must be credible, and is not intended to cause social harm. That way, a citizen journalist can effectively contribute to the greater conversation, thereby expanding human horizons.


As an aspiring citizen journalist, a key step in your training is to have a clear understanding of what is involved with the practice.


In a groundbreaking study of citizen media titled “Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News”, J-Lab: The Institute of Journalism describes citizen journalism as “a form of bridge media, linking traditional forms of journalism with classic civic participation.”


While a citizen journalist aspires to report on a community, more importantly, they must strive to write on issues that provide better and unbiased insight into issues.


You must therefore train yourself to have an awareness of issues that affect whatever community that you seek to present.


In that respect, an awareness of the principles and models of traditional journalism can greatly help a citizen journalist to write with an eye to accuracy, truth and fairness.


However, you must not shy away from sharing your thoughts, observations, ideas and experiences of what you encounter.


Having said that, a citizen journalist must strive to be interested in providing analysis to their observations to ensure that what is purveyed is not mere stereotype. You must make a serious effort to remain independent of political, gender, cultural, or tribal biases.


By remaining free of biases, a citizen journalist is better positioned to tell the whole story without compromising the truth or inhibiting the freedom of expression.


In addition, training oneself to have an eye of facts is highly critical to lend credibility to content. But a citizen journalist needs to be able to see that facts do not always tell the whole story, and can easily be fabricated.


Thus, a citizen journalist strives to look beyond the facts, and question the story behind them.


Another essential key to self-training is to always conduct in-depth research on issues. The web, the biggest library known to humanity, offers a citizen journalist a great tool to be able to conduct research on a chosen subject.


It is the duty of the citizen journalist to sift through the facts, and compile a story that is credible. Research helps to make the story better.


Overall, a citizen journalist must be consciously aware that he or she is responsible for the transmission of ideas and knowledge. Responsibility requires being able to check facts, write truthfully as well as standing by the story if any questions are raised.