In poll season, is it only glitter or gold for YouTube journalists?

The journalists who operate on social media point to pressure from local authorities, discrimination and limited access.

WrittenBy:Avdhesh Kumar

At the grassroots, a new crop of journalists is creating a wave – independent, operating on social media, and focusing on hyperlocal issues and dialogues. But without the backing of big media outlets and money from advertisements, how are these journalists faring, especially in the election season?    

Newslaundry spoke to several YouTube journalists in Amroha, Moradabad, Bijnor and Nagina Lok Sabha constituencies all about their work – from the challenges they face in ground reporting to their source of income. 

Many of these journalists said they mainly depend on monetisation of their social media channel for earnings, while ads from locals and “help” from candidates contesting the elections add to their income. 

A few also mentioned “pressure from local authorities and politicians”, and pointed to not having “access to big leaders”.    

Moradabad’s Akil Raza, who has been running AR News on YouTube since 2019, said both his earnings and reach are “decreasing”, but he tries to “cover news that the mainstream media doesn’t”. His channel has 1.5 million subscribers.

Another YouTuber based in Moradabad, Sushil Kumar, told Newslaundry, “We are YouTubers so we do not have access to big leaders. Our focus remains mostly on public opinion. We lack resources so we only report public surveys.” 

Kumar, whose channel National India News has 20 lakh subscribers, said, “YouTubers are greatly underestimated in journalism. We do not get as much attention as mainstream journalists do. No matter how hard we work.” 

He said the YouTubers usually get “aid between Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 from an election candidate. But those who work for political parties charge huge amounts.”

A few other YouTubers who spoke to Newslaundry alleged “discriminatory behaviour” against them in contrast to mainstream journalists, who are not only paid better but also “treated better”. 

“The mainstream media does not raise as many issues as YouTubers do. Despite this, cases are filed against YouTubers to suppress their freedom,” said Shamim Ahmed, a Bijnor-based journalist who runs YouTube channel News India Today. He pointed out that more than a dozen journalists were booked in Bijnor last year.


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