Like a coin, every story has two sides. The version of the story we ascribe to is often based on what we want to believe. Yet, having the agency to choose which version of the story makes sense and which version is falsified is in itself a rarity. Across the world, the rise of authoritarian governments and autocratic leaders has meant that the freedom of the press is in grave danger. Politicians from far and wide can use their influence to manipulate media stories in exchange for favours. Failure to comply can often be counter-productive for media outlets. Often, those who don’t toe the State line feel the full force of the state machinery coming down on them. In such cases, citizen journalism takes an enhanced role.
Even in the absence of state intervention, journalism is still inherently biased. Personal biases of journalists aside, it must be noted that most media organisations, irrespective of their political leaning, are owned by large conglomerates. The difference in their coverage is often glaringly obvious. Parent companies play a huge role in deciding what narratives a news agency will run and often select news stories that can or cannot be broadcast. Media lobbying is another avenue through which multimillionaires can ensure that their names aren’t tarnished. Reporters and organisations are increasingly ‘selling out’ as they seek to appease their overlords.
In this, the post-truth age, with press freedom at an all-time low and with trust in the media wavering, the only way out is for the people to take matters into their own hands. Sarah Jackson, assistant professor at Northeastern University, spoke about how events were covered in Ferguson, at the height of racial tensions in the Missouri town. Social media played a huge role in nationalising the issue by making gory pictures of the police shooting victim, Michael Brown, available to the world.
All of America broke out in protest as the people of Missouri took matters into their own hands and broadcasted their struggle from the ground level. This access to ground reality made the protest independent of both political and corporate biases. This, in turn, allowed an organic movement to grow. By circumventing media conglomerates, the people of Missouri took power back into their own hands. In these trying times, we must take lessons from Ferguson and adopt citizen journalism. No matter how bad the situation gets, the people can always bring out the truth.