Attempt to network citizen journalists

Equal Access Nepal, an INGO working mainly in media development, is in a process of creating MeroReport.net with an aim of making it a network for citizen journalists in Nepal.

The website being built on Ning – the social networking script. The INGO larger objectives on its development is to be give a common platform for people to put on their report; bloggers to promote themselves leading towards a creation of fully functional citizen journalism site.

In the country where internet penetration is around 3 per cent of population, this is an ambitious project. During my two meetings with those involved in developing the site as a blogger, I have told them the worst-case scenario on why this site is not going to work and suggested on what are best possible ways to keep the hope alive.

A citizen journalism site is based on crowd-sourcing, and the crowd is not that big in Nepal. Even it will take a big effort to turn those with internet access to write something – report event or put on their opinions – instead of chatting and social networking.

We have a small community of bloggers – most of whom are based either outside the country or in Kathmandu. Almost all of them are not reporting (not writing much about events – rather focusing on their opinions or creative writings or technical know-how writings). And, surely bloggers who have already established themselves on their blogsite will not be much interested in writing for another website if there is no chance of substantial promotion of their own blog.

But despite that MeroReport.net have every possibility of becoming a successful project. Why? Primarily because Equal Access Nepal has the resources to promote it well.

They run radio programs around the country through which they can promote it – even integrate the radio programs with the website by keeping it as a medium of feedback. They also have people around the country working for them to whom they can ask to contribute. They have already employed some human resources to work full time on the site – so they can not only wait for moderation of content but can also contribute by producing content. The INGO also plans to put a toll free number for people to call and verbally report which will be transcribed.

And, most importantly Equal Access Nepal have the budget to run it.

My suggestions also included preparing small groups of contributors in a few cities of Nepal by organizing workshops and trainings, especially to the students. It will be a big learning curve for students who can utilize their free time to write about happenings around.

If you look at the site currently, it’s not very promising but the INGO is working on it and once it’s launched, I hope to see a much better site with better design and usability. Although I have not been very optimistic by the work performed so far, I hope that it would succeed (not only on report sent back to donors).

Disclaimer: I have attended two meetings and a minibarcamp as a blogger to discuss on the website. However, I have no other participation in development of the website and/or the INGO.

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