Citizen journalism has role in new media landscape

CLOSING down citizen journalism website Stomp may not solve the inherent issues in the social media era, as similar platforms will sprout up to take its place (“MDA responds to anti-Stomp petition”; last Thursday).

Stomp started out with the aim of promoting citizen journalism, showcasing public perspectives of news that might not be captured by traditional media. In that way, Stomp should not be seen as inferior to mainstream media.

At the same time, one cannot expect Stomp posts to possess the depth of analysis present in traditional media.

The main issue is not the trivial and superfluous content that Stomp users routinely post. Rather, it is the lack of journalistic integrity and responsibility in citizen journalism.

Accuracy is paramount. The desire to receive many “likes” and comments on one’s post cannot compromise this. The standards borne by mainstream media must be applied to citizen journalism.

Also, the gripe with Stomp is that it promotes “voyeur vigilantism”, where people, through a distorted sense of self-righteousness, indiscriminately post photos of others in compromising situations. Their “victims” lose their privacy and become the subject of heated discussions.

Moderating content undermines the spirit of a website devoted to user-generated content.

As it is, a mechanism for moderation already exists among Stomp users. For example, many would chastise contributors who present distorted pictures of the issues they are trying to raise.

However, moderation is necessary should self-regulation fail.

The Media Development Authority has said it will take firm action if there is a breach of public interest or the promotion of racial and religious hatred or intolerance.

However, it is often the grey areas that neither fall under the above categories nor are under the purview of site moderators that are prone to abuse. For example, cases where commuters do not give up their seats to others on public transport.

A healthier balance is reached if Stomp could showcase different aspects of Singapore society. For example, every photo of a soldier not giving up an MRT seat should be balanced by one of a soldier helping an elderly person to cross the road.

For a start, I propose that real names be used by Stomp contributors. This enhances accountability and makes users more aware of the importance of posting accurate information.

One should also curb the inclination to post everything under the sun and the desire for unaccountable sensationalism.

Sites like Stomp can be powerful communication tools. The site aims to generate constructive national conversation, and should not degenerate into a toxic forum.

Paul Sim Ruiqi

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