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Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration betw. Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework

CCi 2008

Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration between Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework

Axel Bruns

  • 25 June 2008 - CCi 2008 conference, Brisbane, Australia

The emergence of citizen journalism, and the challenges it poses for the conventional journalism industry, have been well-documented over the past decade. Citizen journalism has been hailed as a new "Estate 4.5" (Singer 2006), acting as a watchdog for a journalism industry increasingly compromised by commercial and political agendas; it has been seen as making possible a return to a more dialogic, deliberative engagement with the news (Heikkilä & Kunelius 2002) in which a broader range of perspectives are represented and engage with one another; it has been described as shifting focus from the global and generic to the hyperlocal and specific.

Futures for Journalism?

The next plenary speaker in this very enjoyable session on day two of the CCi conference is Margaret Simons, asking the question "What are journalists for?" She begins by noting the role of the Australian Press Council, long perceived as a publishers' poodle, and recounts how she has recently been contacted by a researcher at the APC inquiring about the development of journalistic staff numbers in Australian publishers - publishers themselves were not interested to share these numbers, presumably because there is a strong decline in numbers in the current, distressed context of the journalism industry.

Public Speech, Public Spaces, Public Spheres

The next session I'm attending at the CCi conference is also (broadly) on citizen journalism. Andrew Kenyon from the University of Melbourne is the first speaker, and his focus is especially on the legal perspective on journalism as public speech, building on interviews with editors, journalists, and other media workers. Legal frameworks enable in particular the search for truth, the maintenance of democracy, and (especially in the US) a critique of government, but public speech is often positioned as fulfilling a more generic function (such as consensus formation). Public speech often critiques, and limited protections for public speech is often seen as having a chilling effect on the diversity of public speech that is possible.

Futures for News Media in the Face of Citizen Journalism

We're now starting the first panel session of the CCi conference, and this is the panel on citizen journalism that my paper is in as well, so I'm including the Powerpoint below (audio to be added later available now).

The first speaker is David McKnight from UNSW, whose focus is on the future of quality journalism in the emerging media environment. He points to a perspective that newspapers are now an 'endangered species'; The Australian passionately rejected this in a September 2006 editorial. It suggested a commitment to quality journalism as an important continuing strategy for newspapers. Nonetheless, the economic case for newspaper publishing is becoming increasingly difficult; circulations are falling and especially classified advertising is moving away from print.

CCi Conference: Brisbane, 25-27 June 2008

I'll be spending the rest of this week at the inaugural conference of the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCi) here in Brisbane, and I'll try to live-blog as much as possible from the conference. This should be a great event - keynote speakers include Baroness Susan Greenfield, MIT's Henry Jenkins, Mark Deuze (the author of Media Work), and a number of other luminaries in the field. Henry will also be launching a number of books (including my own Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage) on Wednesday evening.

There's a strong citizen journalism stream in the conference, and my own paper operates in that field, too - titled "Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration between Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework", it's more of an exploratory rumination on questions which I've found myself coming back to repeatedly over the past few years; from my study of organisational models for the collaborative production of online news in Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production to my work on produsage across various domains of knowledge creation in Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond, it seems to me that the great unanswered question remains how to effectively combine broad participatory (i.e. citizen) involvement and enable the recognition of expert ('professional') knowledges.

A Bunch of New Citizen Journalism Publications

The last months have been enormously productive (and, at times, exhausting!) for me. In addition to my own book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, I've also contributed to a number of other publications - and quite a few of them are now finally available in print and/or online.

cover of

In a previous post, I've already mentioned Megan Boler's edited collection Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times. I've now received my copy of the book, and very nice it looks, too - a great collection of essays from many key authors and researchers in the field, combined with Megan's interviews with journalists and media activists including Robert McChesney and Hassan Ibrahim of Al Jazeera. My own contribution explores the post-tactical opportunities for citizen media, and draws parallels to the long-term establisment of other once tactical movements; a pre-print version of the chapter is online here. The book is available from Amazon and MIT Press.

Australian Journalists Incapable of 2020 Vision?

A quick addendum to my last Gatewatching post, which discussed why in the face of a journalistic environment more concerned with scoring points than reporting on the issues of the day it's not such a bad idea if politicians choose to converse with citizens outside of the media glare: from what I've seen so far, quite a few of the journalists reporting on the 2020 Summit have similarly succumbed to the temptation to file lazy stories poking fun at summit procedures rather than investing the time necessary to inform the rest of the country about what's actually being discussed.

Vacuous stories such as this one by Annabel Crabb make my point for me; all I get from this 'report' is that Annabel couldn't be bothered to find out what's actually happening, and chose instead to pick easy targets. In a further update in the comments to the story, Annabel adds in the tone of a jilted lover: "you will be interested to hear that by late morning they had closed off the Creativity group session to the media" - to which I can only say, good for them! Perhaps without interruptions by journalists more interested in what brand of butchers' paper is being used than what ideas are being generated, the summitteers can actually get some work done.

Consulting Citizens away from the Media Glare

(Crossposted from

There's been a bit of discussion amongst political bloggers about a post by PollieGraph's Rachel Hills which pointed out that Liberal leadership contender Malcolm Turnbull had her - and other journalists - on 'limited profile' on Facebook, because of her status as a writer for New Matilda (also noted over at Larvatus Prodeo). Some of the discussion about this has been fairly predictable - with the Libs plumbing untold lows in their approval ratings, it's easy to engage in some gratuitous pollie-bashing - but for once, I have to say that Turnbull's decision to keep the media at arms' length from any online discussion with voters seems like a pretty smart move to me.

New Roles in and for Journalism in Australia, Iraq, and Polynesia

The last AMIC 2008 session this afternoon starts with a paper by my colleague Jason Wilson, our research associate on the Youdecide2007 project and its follow-ups, and he presents especially on the experience and lessons from Youdecide. There may be a need for a structural modification in the role of conventional journalists, and a change of attitude towards working with citizen journalists.

Merinews: Citizen Journalism in India

The second day of the AMIC conference has now started, and we begin with a keynote from Vipul Kant Upadhay, the CEO and Editor in Chief of in India. This site is now the largest Internet news portal in the country, and builds very significantly on citizen journalism. Vipul begins by noting that he is no journalist by profession, but instead came to this venture through student activism; his initial motivation was the widespread corruption and nepotism in India.


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