The Straits Times today devotes several pages to the phenomenon of citizen journalism, and includes a big fat quote from yours truly. Not surprisingly, though, ST left out one additional point I made: that I do not consider STOMP to be citizen journalism. Here's what I wrote to the reporter:
"And to answer an unasked question, I don't consider STOMP to be citizen journalism, because it puts the public on tap, not on top. It merely introduces greater interactivity to traditional journalism. Citizen journalism in the proper sense does its own agenda-setting. Citizen journalists decide what questions need to be asked and what topics to pursue. They don't just answer questions decided by mainstream editors."
The Review package celebrates STOMP as if it is the cutting edge of citizen journalism in Singapore, and makes it seem as if those interviewed agree with this premiss. I hope the above quote clarifies that I don't. To me, it is not the source of facts or opinions that distinguishes citizen journalism from the mainstream - just because a story or picture comes from a reader does not make it a piece of citizen journalism. Instead, it boils down to who selects and decides what stories to pursue and publish. Editorial decision making is what separate journalism from gossip. STOMP, like the rest of ST, is edited by professional ST journalists, not ordinary citizens.
Citizen journalism has unrealised potential in Singapore. (See my earlier post below.) Most promising, I think, are the special interest areas or "beats" in which considerable expertise exists outside of the media. A taste of things to come is found in Mr Wang Says So, who uses his legal training to provide legal analysis that is often superior to ST's; Dawn Kua's blog on animal issues; and Chua Ai Lin's Singapore heritage mailing list. (Thanks to Sarah for pointing me to these. If you know of other "expert" Singaporean blogs in specialised areas, I would love to receive your recommendations.)