Unleashing the power of community journalism in Papua New Guinea

pic-1Community Journalism sounds like a new concept but its not. Since the arrival of mobile phones and social media, communities have become more actively involved in generating and disseminating information to wider audiences.

With better mobile phone technology,   coverage and faster internet speeds, communities who previously sent our text messages moved up the technological scale to disseminating images on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites.

While people in other countries call it citizen journalism, I would like to call it “community journalism” because much of the information and images from Papua New Guinea communities are released publicly after some consultation with members of the community.

It is a collective decision based largely on the intention to expose and highlight issues that affect them and to seek assistance from those who can provide that much needed assistance. Some analysis of existing information and experiences from other sources comes into play during discussions before the text and images and sometimes videos are released.

Mainstream media in the 21st century, has dropped back a few paces in terms of getting out the information. There are valid and serious concerns about verification, credibility and balance which many news organizations are still having to contend with.

However, what must be realized is that    members of rural communities who pass on the information are, in fact, authorities on the ground with first hand information. Verification for many in the mainstream, means verification from an “official source” detached from the reality on the ground. In many instances,   verification is delayed as an ongoing stream of important content floods social media sites from various sources on the ground.

Community journalism is important for a disaster prone country like Papua New Guinea. It provides an important link between communities affected by natural disasters and government authorities in administrative centers.

What we have in Papua New Guinea is a hybrid system of the kind of crowd sourcing that happens in larger developed economies of the world.   There are clusters of urban communities connected to their families in village communities.

Crowd sourcing news and information works   with urban and semi-urban communities online or urban based residents who are mobile.   For rural communities, crowd sourcing is several years behind what we see in larger economies.

The challenge is to develop community journalist  clusters that include teachers, local level government officers and tech savvy secondary school students to make then understand the power of community journalism and its impact on society.