I attended the #MeCCSA2016 Conference 6-8 January 2016, and overall it was a stimulating environment. The conference theme “community” resonated with my very own PhD research and general research interests. Although community was the main theme, several panellists such as Dave Harte, Andy Williams, Peter Lewis, Jon Hickman, and Adam Cantwell-Corn raised the issue of financial sustainability across local, hyperlocal and community media. All of these presenters spent time talking about the financial model of said media forms, to includes crowdfunding, in-kind donations, grants, and co-operatives.
Citizen Journalism operates similarly to local, hyperlocal and community media and it would be more interesting to talk here about some of the ways citizen journalists sustain their activities and combat their financial challenges. There are many citizen journalists and related organisations who rely on crowdfunding and other means to sustain their activities within the Arab region. Yet there are cheaper alternatives to publishing online content.
If you are interested in becoming a Citizen Journalist you may think it’s an expensive feat at onset. However, you’ll soon realise that the expense of this role depends on the type and quality of output you are interested in achieving. For example, if you are publishing photo-related stories a simple phone and laptop may suffice unless you would like a higher resolution than what your mobile phone may offer. If you would like to publish a video story, you would need access to editing software among a few other simple tools.
In my view, some of the challenges of sustainability are time, attention, skills, access and safety and there are ways to manage some of these concerns. For example, there are many free online training courses, once you enrol in these online courses or view various tutorials on Youtube you can obtain a lot of the skills needed as you practice. There is also free software available for blogging, editing, designing among many other aspects of the citizen journalism process. There are also freelance opportunities to take advantage of at some media organisations. You can also join a community consisting of other journalists and relevant citizen journalism associations, which would allow for you to learn some tricks and tips.
Ultimately, there are various solutions to sustaining community journalism activities.