After my interview with US based journalism guru Dharma Adhikari was published in OhmyNews, an Indian lady claiming herself a journalism student of Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, India requested for an interview. Initially, I thought she was looking for Mr. Dharma not me. But, it turned out that she wanted to interview me for her journalism assignment saying that it will be put in a Web site.
She mailed me questions and I answered them at my level best, was glad that after interviewing so many people in my career as a reporter spanning more than six years, here is a chance to turn the table. I was feeling over the moon with the pleasant anticipation of me being featured!
Weeks rolled by, months lumbered on, but there was no signs of it being published. She told me she will provide me with the link once it goes live. Few days back I caught up her over MSN chat. She told me the interview was with the server of the college and there is a possibility of it being never published. It also needed an update. When you have the publishing tools (ie blogs) at your disposal, nothing to worry about publication. So, here goes my interview on blogs, Citizen Journalism and mainstream media. Questions are shot by Aishwarya Iyer. Answers of course are mine!
Aishwarya: One basic question is, could please tell me about the process of news procuring and publication, in terms of how do you send your articles, what after that? Is there a constant interaction with the editor, when does the piece get published and how and when do you get paid?
Deepak: First, I conceive the story ideas and usually discuss with Senior Editor Todd Thacker or Copy Editor Claire George. They have been of tremendous help for me. I log into my OhMyNews account and submit the article. The process of submitting takes just about ten to fifteen minutes. I type on word document and copy and paste it in the given form; attach a photo or two if any and click submit button. I regularly interact with the editors, which makes my work a lot easier and well crafted. It gets published after a couple of hours or at times couple of days. My last piece on Nepali painter appeared two days after the submission.
Cybercash is a function which enables a citizen reporter to receive cash. The process is pretty easy. After requesting the cash (one must provide the account information), it will be mentioned in the reporter's inbox whether it has been paid or not. Recently, I received my first payment within one week of request and I was much delighted. So it is really simple and works well.
How did you get involved with OhMyNews? Who told you about it? Why did you get involved with OhMyNews? Were you asked for any professional qualifications as a journalist?
I came to know about OhMyNews from Newslookmag. As I was scanning through the news links, I noticed this site and was immediately attracted to it. I have been blogging for United We Blog for more than two years and have my personal blog Deepak's Diary
But, these were voluntary endeavors and I was looking for some monetary source. This is where OhMyNews comes into the picture for me. I was not asked for any professional qualifications as journalist but I provided link to my write ups.
How do you find OhMyNews different from other news websites? OhMyNews incorporates articles that citizens send, their perspectives; their perception of truth is given importance. Isn't this what blogs do, can OhMyNews then considered to be a kind of blogsite?
There is fundamental difference between blogs and OhMyNews–though the latter may look like blog's extended version. Yes, many bloggers like me constitute the growing number of citizen reporters associated with OhMyNews. Blog is usually run by a single person and the post are published without much fact-checking. But, in OhMyNews, they edit the story; check the basic facts, its relevance, fine-tune the language. There are a number of editors in OhMyNews working day in day out on the articles sent by citizen reporters from around the globe. Moreover, few articles also get rejected. For example, my first piece on World Cup Football fever in Kathmandu submitted on June 24, 2006 was rejected because similar article had appeared and the event I captured happened a week ago.
How many articles have you written so far, of what genre?
I've written seven articles and six have been published. I basically write on issues related to art and life. But, I also write on Nepali current affairs.
How do you get the information for your articles? Does OhMyNews permit the usage of professional news providing agencies?
I use many means: personal contact, internet, newspapers etc to get the information for my article. But, human beings themselves are the biggest source of information and I usually end up writing about them with a touch of humanity.
Do your articles get censored or edited?
Censored? No. Edited? Yes.
Is the reimbursement immediate?
Once the article has been submitted, does the copyright rest with you or
with the website?
Officially, it rests with OhMyNews. But, I can use it for my blog and other non-business purpose. However, I make sure that I get approval from OhMyNews.
Besides being a citizen's journalist at OhMyNews, are you a practicing
Yes I am. I work for Nepal Weekly, a leading vernacular Nepali newsmagazine.
Were you asked for any professional journalistic qualifications for being a
part of OhMyNews?
Are there any similar sites like OhMyNews in Nepal? Or any kind of citizen journalism that prevails in Nepal, according to you?
A US based Nepali Prameya Bhandari runs Citizen Journalism Nepal that tries to practice citizen journalism where Nepalis can get involved. He has offered to pay some amount for a piece of write up or a photograph. The idea is wonderful but I'm not sure how it is working.
Lately, besides journalists, few college going students and professionals from various fields in Nepal have started (some of them have been running for a year or so) their blogs, thereby promoting the concept of citizen journalism.
What are your views on the trend of citizen's journalism, do you thinkthatcitizen's journalism is possible in countries like India and Nepal? Do kindly elaborate as to what scope do you personally see?
Citizen Journalism is relatively new concept. It aims to dismantle the traditional practice of media which is dominated by business interest and is often blamed for representing the mighty and the majority. Citizen journalism on the other hand believes that every citizen has a story to tell and they can rightly do so.
Moreover, citizen reporters feel that they are part of the debate, can make difference in disseminating information and are actively involved in the dialogue. It gives priority to first hand account and perspectives of the people who are hitherto cornered and marginalized by mainstream media. Gone are the days when readers were the passive lot, only devouring that have been offered to them.
In my opinion, Indian theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak must have gotten her answer to the query: Can Subaltern Speak? Yes Gayatri, subaltern can speak through citizen journalism. This is a turning point in the notion of journalism–a good topic for student of journalism to discuss on. Furthermore, OhMyNews' recent launch of Japanese edition is a feather in the cap of citizen journalism.
However, nothing can surpass the professional skills of journalists who have honed their writing from years of practice. So, I still divide my time for mainstream media and alternative media forums such as blogs and citizen journalism. In the latter, the "other" is represented but at the same time mainline media equally fascinate me.
Do you know that OhMyNews runs a section of daily news headlines from International Herald Tribune? This shows that we still need mainline media. IHT has also recently provided links to the selected stories on art, technology and sport published in OhMyNews International. This gives broader exposure to the citizen reporters.
Regarding the last part of your question: In India and Nepal, traditional media still rule the roost. The low internet access is the main obstacle for web-based citizen journalism to flourish. I've no idea about India but Nepal has only two and a half lakhs internet users out of the population of 25 million. Therefore, I am not much optimistic about citizen journalism playing vital role in these developing counties (yes, in China bloggers are making marks and more than a year ago Newsweek ran a cover story on Chinese blogging. The title was: China: Bloggers' Nation) unlike in the West (particularly the US) where this medium is making the differences.