Systems like Swara and the Jharkhand mobile news service represent a new paradigm in journalism, which is low-cost and citizen-centric, and has the potential to expand media access to the disenfranchised in India’s rural areas. In the first forty days since our launch in Jharkhand, we logged sixty thousand phone calls, and the number of unique callers exceeded six thousand. These numbers indicate the need for systems like these that provide citizens a platform to voice their concerns.
Many mainstream journalists are taking an interest in these systems because of the urgent stories they release from conflict-hit zones. Unfortunately, many journalists who use these systems to get their leads to big stories hardly acknowledge their original source.
Sadly, while journalists are willing to use these systems to get their stories, no mainstream media organization is willing to help such initiatives sustain themselves. Unless and until business models are developed to sustain these systems, such initiatives will not survive in the long run. Once donor funds run out, the project will get pushed to the side. Sustaining such projects requires a paradigm shift in the way news organizations are structured and operate.