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Gatewatching and Citizen Journalism

Some Long-Overdue Updates

Sorry: it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. Largely, that’s because I’ve been so busy with our work on the Mapping Online Publics project – see the project blog for all the latest information. Following the various natural disasters we’ve endured – in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, to begin with –, that work has focussed for the moment especially on the use of social media for crisis communication, with plenty of outcomes already. In particular, this includes our two most recent presentations:

Slides and audio from both presentations are now online here – just follow the links above.

Gatekeeping, Gatewatching, Echtzeitfeedback: Neue Herausforderungen für den Journalismus (University of Vienna 2011)

Gatekeeping, Gatewatching, Echtzeitfeedback: Neue Herausforderungen für den Journalismus

Axel Bruns

  • 9 May 2011 – Guest lecture at the University of Vienna

Wie Blogger und andere unabhängige Kommentatoren im Netz den herkömmlichen Journalismus kritisieren, korrigieren, und anderweitig herausfordern, ist bereits seit Jahren bekannt, aber noch längst nicht von allen Journalisten verinnerlicht worden; noch immer flammen die Feindseligkeiten zwischen dem Medienestablishment und der neuen Generation von Webseiten gelegentlich wieder auf. Das alte Gatekeeping-Monopol der Massenmedien wird dabei durch die neue Praxis des Gatewatching infragegestellt: von einzelnen Bloggern und Communities von Kommentatoren, die zwar selbst nicht viel Neues berichten, dabei aber die Nachrichten und sonstige Informationen offizieller Quellen neu zusammenstellen und bewerten und so einen wichtigen Dienst leisten. Und dies geschieht nun auch noch immer schneller, geradezu in Echtzeit: über neueste soziale Netzwerke, die in Minutenschnelle Nachrichten weiterleiten, kommentieren, hinterfragen, oder widerlegen können, und über zusätzliche Plattformen, die schnelle und effektive Ad-Hoc-Zusammenarbeit möglich machen. Wenn hunderte Freiwilliger innerhalb weniger Tage einen deutschen Minister des schweren Plagiats überführen können, wenn die Welt von Erdbeben und Tsunamis zuerst per Twitter erfährt: wie kommt der Journalismus da noch mit?

Some More Presentations to Finish the Year

As 2010 draws to a close, its perhaps appropriate that my last couple of conference presentations for the year take a somewhat retrospective nature, summarising and reflecting on the 2010 Australian federal election, with a particular view on what we’ve learned about the state of Australian journalism in general and the role of Twitter in election coverage and debate in particular. I’ll present both those papers at different conferences in Sydney this Friday (26 November):

Slides for both those presentations are below, and I’ll try and add audio later both with audio.

Editorial Choices in Covering Climate Change on French Political Media and Blogs

Gothenburg.
And Mathieu Simonson is back for a second presentation in this AoIR 2010 session, examining how the editorial choices and sourcing practices of major French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro compare with those of participatory political blogging / citizen journalism platforms Agora Vox and Rue 89. The case study here is their coverage of the Copenhagen summit on climate change (COP15). This involved some 214 articles across the four platforms.

Traditional platforms focussed on negotiations (35%), education and sensibilisation (22%), and demonstrations, protests and militants (14%); participatory platforms similarly focussed on negotiations (30%), climate science (22%), and ideology (12%). Sources that were used by both sides included press agencies (almost exclusively on traditional platforms); officials and government sources, especially for traditional platforms; and mass media coverage, especially for the participatory media platforms – however, such citations were not always uncritical, of course.

Examining the Relationship between Political Bloggers and the Mainstream Media

Gothenburg.
The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is my brilliant PhD student Tim Highfield, whose interest is in what contribution blogging (by a wide variety of bloggers concerned with politics, the news, current events, and the reflection of such topics in specific fields of interest) makes to the overall mediasphere. Such bloggers may have a variety of points of focus, and while the ‘informing’ role of blogs has been stressed in the literature, this may not be their only function.

There is also an underlying question of how bloggers and journalists interrelate with one another – whether they are complementary to one another, whether the wider blogosphere provides a broader background discussion to mainstream media coverage, whether bloggers can act as gatewatchers highlighting and critiquing specific themes in the media. This positions bloggers as a second tier of the media, in the way that Herbert Gans foresaw such a second tier that feeds on and reanalyses first-tier media coverage. Against this stands the sort of rhetoric around blogs as a mere echo chamber which Andrew Keen has built his career around. There is some indication that blogs link to mainstream media content more than to other blogs – as a source of information, to critique the content, or to refer to specific sections on the mainstream media page (such as comments), too.

Twitter-Based Coverage of the Olympic Games

Hamburg.
The next speaker at ECREA 2010 starts with Jennifer Jones, whose focus is also on Twitter: she was an embedded journalist at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. There is a significant historical connection between the Olympic Games and technology, and new media have been especially prominent in recent years; there has been substantial growth especially in alternative media coverage (by non-accredited journalists and others). In Sydney, there even was an alternative media centre for the Olympics.

Independent media were prominent in Vancouver, too – people set up their own media centres, and printed their own unauthorised media passes, which were eventually tacitly accepted as valid media passes. The more people printed their own passes, the more ‘official’ they became. A number of Twitter lists (official, as well as fan-curated or adapted) were set up to aggregate the various alternative journalists covering the events.

Comparing User Participation Functionality in Flemish and German Newspaper Sites

Hamburg.
The final speakers in this very engaging morning session at ECREA 2010 are Jeroen de Keyser and Annika Sehl, presenting a comparison of German and Flemish efforts to encourage public participation in the news media. To begin with, there clearly are increases in the online activities of ‘ordinary’ people, for example through blogs, social networking, and citizen journalism; some traditional media offer similar tools to also encourage participatory journalism activities. Such participation may take place at various stages of the journalistic process (input, output, commentary), and tools which enable participation at different stages are differently popular amongst journalists; there still is relatively limited conversation of journalists with the public overall.

The present study examined the current situation in Flanders and Germany, then. In 2008 and 2010, it analysed the participatory tools available on journalism Websites to examine the structural characteristics of audience participation, comparing eight national newspaper Websites each in Flanders and Germany.

Expanding Journalism Theories to Address User Participation

Hamburg.
The next speaker in this session at ECREA 2010 is Mirjam Gollmitzer, whose interest is in audience participation in journalism. Such participation can take any number of different forms, of course – from commenting to the creation of whole new articles and other forms of content. Such types of participation can be conceptualised in relation to the degree of audience control over content, can be categorised into different forms of interaction and creation of content, and can be evaluated with reference to the overall visibility of audience contributions, for example.

What is interest here is what happens when such typologies enter into a dialogue with various established journalism theories – Bourdieu’s field theory, which examines the media as a field with its own structures and institutions; Habermas’s public sphere theory which establishes an ideal of public communication and political debate; and Shoemaker & Reese’s hierarchy of influences, which postulates concentric circles of influence extending from the media content at the centre through journalists, their routines, organisations, and extra-media influences, to ideology as the wider background. The impact of the audiences could be mapped at every level here, for example.

Mainstream Media Use of Amateur Footage during the Iran Election Aftermath

Hamburg.
The next speaker in this ECREA 2010 session is Mervi Pantti, whose interest is in the role of amateur images in the Iran election crisis. This was a key moment for using citizen-created content in mainstream news coverage, and such images became a focal point for the public response to the election aftermath. Such images were also very difficult to verify, however, raising questions for the journalistic process. Mervi examined the coverage of these protests by CNN, BBC One, and the Finnish broadcaster YLE.

Citizen-provided images are used to support the journalistic mediator’s claims about the truth of the event; they are valued as evidence of the events, and provide immediacy and a heightened reality effect. At the same time, they also present a risk to the journalist’s trustworthiness, especially if there is confusion about the origin of these images. Additionally, there are questions of responsibility here – some of the images show scenes which journalists themselves would not have covered or shown, for ethical reasons; amateur footage of violence, for example, can be used as an excuse from standard journalistic ethics. Transparency is the new strategic ritual in journalistic justifications in this context; it serves as a means of letting the audience know where these images come from.

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