Shikha Dixit Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Fake news, Trump news, partisan news - today, more than ever, a valid and neutral fourth estate is vital to the functioning of society. The world marked 45 years of the Watergate scandal earlier this month - a case for sound investigative journalism that held America’s highest office accountable.

We have continued on this path but now there is a new element that can further ensure or derail this seeking of truth - the crowd, also known as social users. It functions to a great measure as a mob, not the ‘Tony Montana’ kind but the type that will take information shared on social channels as gospel and without much discernment disseminate with the speed of cotton seeds in a storm.

There’s not much we can do about it, other than for all of us to be individually responsible and function as journalists - question, ask the who, what, when, where and why. Nevertheless, crowd sourcing is great and has been used effectively to bring positive results. Case and point are the Gulf News community reports and its army of content providers spread across the UAE. They are our eyes and ears on the ground, people who help us stay relevant at a local level.

March saw many excellent reports being filed by our readers, with primary focus being on innovative ideas for better living and recycling.

First place goes to Neola Castelino for her article, “Misuse of fire extinguisher cabinets needs to stop now”, published on March 23. She sent us a photograph that showed papers and electronic items being stored in the emergency cabinet of a residential building that houses the fire extinguishers and the water hose. In case of a fire, it would be next to impossible to use any of the necessary items. And what a tragedy that would be! All because of a lack of civic consciousness. Fire safety is not a chore that people can ignore, it is a reality that has to be understood and for everybody to be aware of. Have you personally seen similar misuse? Share your pictures of it on our Facebook page. Let us make a concerted effort for better awareness on the matter.

Second place goes to Shikha Dixit, for her report “Bus shelters urgently required at various stops in Sharjah”. It was published on March 30. A teacher based in Sharjah, she highlighted several locations that did not have a covered area for people to wait. As the weather turns warmer, it becomes a necessity for people to be able to catch some shade. We hope the Sharjah civic authorities will look into this matter at the earliest possible.

Third place goes to Aslam Doi for his coverage of people abandoning baggage trolleys in a random manner at the airports, despite there being alloted slots for it. In some countries, you have to pay for the trolley, so people ensure it is put back in the right place to be able to get their money back. In the UAE it is a free service, which makes it all the more reprehensible that it is being misused. We need to respect what we have.

First: Neola Castelino

Published on March 23, 2017

Neola Castelino, a pupil based in Sharjah, was concerned about the misuse of emergency fire cabinets in residential buildings. On a visit to her friend, she came across a cabinet that had been stuffed with electronics and discarded newspapers. Her instinct was to take a picture and send a community report to the paper.

She said: “Community reports are a good platform to get a message across to the masses of people who read the newspaper. They give us, as readers, an idea of what is happening in the society around us.”

After her report was published, she received positive feedback from those around her. At her school, her friends always commend her work and her report was put up on a notice board. “It was so other children could read about this issue and also get encouraged to write,” she said.


Second: Shikha Dixit

Published on March 30, 2017

Shikha Dixit, a teacher based in Sharjah, wrote about the lack of bus shelters in Sharjah, which leads to people having to wait for the bus in the sun. In her opinion, writing about an issue in the community allows people to work towards the “betterment of society”.

She said: “Community reports are an excellent platform for people who feel responsible for things happening around them and are ready to face challenges for a better society.”

After her report was published, she received calls from her friends, appreciating her efforts for raising this issue, as it is something even they have come across and hope for a quick resolution.


Third: Aslam Doi

Published on March 20, 2017

Aslam Doi, a manager based in Dubai, came across abadoned trolleys outside the airports in Dubai and was concerned about the misuse of this facility provided for free by the authorities. Through his report, he hoped to raise awareness amongst the residents so they refrain from abandoning the trolleys randomly.

He said: “Community reports are a great medium to spread message and awareness among people, especially in the UAE where people of more than 200 nationalities live. This wonderful country has all the best things in the world to offer to the residents for their welfare, prosperity, safety and happiness. It becomes the responsibility of the people to take benefit of the facilities being offered and not to misuse them.”

He received a positive response from his family and friends, who were grateful that he highlighted this issue of concern.

— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor