A New Aspect to Citizen Media: In a psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires, a surprising new crop of citizen journalists
[Editor's note: This story was written by Alyssa A. Feldmann, Summer Associate at Ashoka Changemakers.]
Citizen journalism has developed in some niches of Argentina, telling the stories that the mainstream media giants Clarín and La Nación do not publish. But these pioneers in citizen media have not been celebrated by the general public, and many of their publications remain overlooked.
Most citizens still rely on mainstream media for their news. The Media Law passed in 2009 equally divides the number of media licenses available between non-profit, for-profit and government media associations in order to decrease the monopolies’ power. But, the monopolies continue to distract the public from those who are using their voice to unearth information that is sometimes unpopular. In the capital Buenos Aires, especially, strikes and peaceful demonstrations are still the most common way to increase greater public attention. But there is one organization working -- successfully -- to bring citizen media to the masses.
Created by Ashoka Fellow and psychologist Alfredo Olivera, La Colifata is a radio station that broadcasts live from the psychiatric hospital “La Borda” in Buenos Aires. The patients who serve as citizen journalists may not be reporting the latest news, but in telling their stories, they have created a role for themselves as representatives of marginalized citizens.
The show has proven it provides a form of therapeutic rehabilitation for its participants. Before it was launched, many patients in the hospital felt closed off from the outside world; on their release, many didn’t know how to reintegrate and participate in society.
La Colifata allows patients to interact with society before leaving the institution and helps remove the societal stigma of mental illness. And, on top of that La Colifata is a hit. Twelve million listeners tune in every Saturday to listen to the patients, who communicate via monologue, poetry and music, and who simply don’t seem all that “crazy.”
Citizen media is a multi-faceted term. It describes psychiatric patients speaking their thoughts as well as community journalists reporting about local issues. The common thread is effective communication. Listening, I found myself relating to the patients and understanding their ideas and concerns.
People around the world are creating innovative, catalytic and provocative ways to change the way media is generated and disseminated, just like La Colifata is. I urge others who live in countries where media monopolies control much of the limelight to step outside of the box to make their voice heard. Who cares if others think you’re “crazy”?
Ashoka Changemakers with the support of Google are looking for innovative ideas that advance Citizen Media. Have one? Enter our Citizen Media competition by September 14th!