Participatory Journalism 2017 Abstracts

Mobile Sourcing: Trust and media production on chat apps • Valerie Belair-Gagnon, University of Minnesota; Colin Agur, University of Minnesota • Since 2011, chat apps have gained significant popularity worldwide and the leading chat apps have surpassed social networking platforms in user numbers. These apps have become the hosts for everyday communication among a wide variety of users and, thanks to the functionalities of certain apps, have taken on new significance in reporting. Especially in East Asia, whose youthful demographics and emerging markets have led many societies to “leapfrog” directly to mobile technology, journalists have turned to these apps to complement face-to-face interactions to gather the news. Drawing on in-depth interviews with foreign correspondents based in China and Hong Kong, this paper discusses how journalists use chat apps to establish trust with sources in contexts of government surveillance.

Millennials at the Back Gates: How Young Adults’ Digital News Practices Present a New Media Logic for News Gathering and Gatekeeping as User-Oriented Activities in a Participatory News Ecosystem • Brant Burkey, California State University, Dominguez Hills • The participatory nature of the contemporary news ecosystem makes it increasingly important to examine how digital news users are active participants in selecting, authenticating, contextualizing, and distributing digital news content, redefining our understanding of news gathering and gatekeeping as being user-oriented activities in this digital order. This qualitative study provides insight into the motivations, perceptions, and attitudes of millennials regarding their digital news practices, while highlighting their roles as distributive news gatherers and reciprocal gatekeepers.

Watching the watchdogs: Online news commenters’ critiques of journalistic performance during Boston Marathon terror attack • Ioana Coman, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay • This study explores the evaluative statements made by The New York Times and Le Figaro online news commenters vis-à-vis journalistic performance in the context of a terrorist attack, namely Boston Marathon bombing. Findings show that online news comment sections become lively public spheres, where commenters are active consumers of news: they engage in debates, they applaud, criticize and make demands to the media, they feel they (should) have a role in the journalistic process.

When the Gated Misbehave: Online Reader Comments on Anthony Wiener’s Sexting Scandal • Elina Erzikova, Central Michigan U; Edgar Simpson; Alexis Baker; Sarah Scalici; Victoria Saylor • This study analyzes online reader comments on top U.S. newspapers’ stories related to the August 2016 a former congressman, Anthony Wiener’s sexting scandal. Emergent themes – gender bias and sexism, political scandals and sex addiction – revealed that the majority of reader comments significantly diverged from the news topic. Furthermore, online discussions “drowned out” newspapers’ intended message about Wiener’s inclusion of his toddler son into a sexually-explicit selfie. This study argues that online commentary should not be perceived as a dichotomy – a negative or positive development, a contributor or preventer of public discourse – but rather as a continuum of citizen engagement.

Citizen Journalism as a Supplement to Reporting on Environmental Issues: Examining the Viewpoint Diversity of Arctic Oil Drilling in Citizen-Involved News • Kanni Huang • Citizen journalism plays the role of supplementing legacy news outlets by providing alternative angles possibly absent from those outlets. Arguments about environmental issues in mainstream news outlets usually focus on limited viewpoints, and citizen journalism has the potential to increase the visibility of minor viewpoints about environmental issues. Using the hierarchical model of influence on news content (Shoemaker & Reese, 1991), this study examines different levels of citizen-involved activities to predict the presence of minority viewpoints in the news. Arctic oil drilling was selected as a case study because of its wide range of geographic impact (local, national, and global) and the potentially diverse viewpoints that can be advocated. A sample was collected from the Google News database and environmental citizen sites. A content analysis was conducted using news stories and opinion pieces appearing between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2015. Results show that citizen authorship or stories published on sites accepting user-submitted stories do not add new or alternative viewpoints to the issue discussion. Instead, citizen journalists tend to defend their positions by giving more popular rationales—for example, ecological sustainability. Citizens’ work published in news media helps strengthen the popular viewpoints instead of supplementing alternative views into public discussion.

Write, write, write for the home team: Motivations to contribute to online sports communities and its influence on news use • Jeremy Littau, Lehigh University • Using motivations found in uses and gratifications theory as a lens, this study examined sports news use among members of online sports communities. A survey (N = 497) of these online communities found a complexity of motives driving use patterns on the spectrum from lurker to contributor, and that trust in fellow community members is a critical driver of someone contributing. Regression analyses also showed that contributing to communities along with information motives were significant predictors of use of online news about their favorite team.

Citizen Journalism and development communication in India: An exploratory study • Paromita Pain, The University of Texas at Austin • Focusing on the idea of communication as an intrinsic part of culture and as a vehicle of transformation (Carey, 2002), this paper seeks to look at the concept of citizen journalism as a powerful tool of development communication in India. Melkote (2003) has underlined the key concepts in this field as communication, modernization, development, participation and empowerment, which also forms the basis of the dominant paradigm in the area. While these central ideas are intrinsically fused, this paper is particularly interested in the ideas of participation, empowerment and the social process of development as envisaged by concepts of participatory action research (PAR) and how they are enhanced and encouraged through citizen journalism. Through qualitative in-depth interviews with the reporters, audiences and other stakeholders of the CGNET Swara; a citizen journalism outlet operating in extremely resource poor areas in India, this paper hopes to contribute to this area by examining the role of citizen journalism and its contribution to social change by engaging communities and enabling them to become the main agents of this transformation.

A ¨Deep Story¨ about Journalism: Interviews with News Subjects Uncover Three Folk Theories of the Press • Ruth Palmer, IE University • The recent increase in populist anti-media rhetoric in the US makes understanding how the public views journalism a matter of urgency. This paper explores three ¨folk theories¨ of the press that emerged in interviews with 83 ordinary people who were named in mainstream news stories in the US. Study participants were asked to describe their interactions with journalists and their reactions to the news coverage in which they had appeared. However, many interpolated their remarks with comments about journalism more broadly and compared their own immediate experiences with expectations they had formed based on their experiences as news consumers. Thus, their folk theories about how journalism does and should relate to citizens emerged naturally. First, many interviewees felt ¨good¨ reporters should never seek out subjects or quotes to fit into stories that had largely been written already. This is noteworthy because doing so is a fairly common reporting practice. Second, interviewees believed that journalists should feel at least somewhat responsible for the outcomes of their stories, which contradicts many journalists´ perceptions of ethical reporting. I conclude by describing a broader narrative about the relationship between the news media and the citizenry that emerged in interviews—what Arlie Hochschild would call a ¨deep story.¨ I found that subjects consistently spoke not of journalists and the media as on their side against powerful people and institutions, but as powerful people and institutions in their own right, who were just as likely—if not more—to be against them.

Half-opening the Gates: Adoption of User-generated Content in the Newsrooms • Mirjana Pantic, University of Tennessee • This study employed gatekeeping theory to investigate ongoing practices that the most prominent media organizations around the globe employ to engage readers in content creation. A thorough analysis of 20 top news websites in the world suggests that even though the media have been lifting the gates to allow readers to participate in developing content, such participation is still limited. The analysis showed that all news websites enabled participation in the areas that increase website traffic, such as sharing news articles on social media, while allowing users to rate articles, write citizen journalism stories and create blogs, was not widely adopted form of reader participation by online news media.

Working with the ‘gated’: ABC Open’s model of ‘collegial gatekeeping’ • Bill Reader, Ohio University • This case study of ABC Open, the participatory journalism project of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, analyzes the role of professional staff in the user-generated content process, from recruiting and training contributors through final editing, publishing, and curating submissions. Informed by the concept of “reciprocal journalism” (Lewis et. al., 2013) and applying the “network gatekeeping theory” developed by Barzilai-Nahon (2008), this study finds a UGC project that is heavily invested in developing rapport between UGC contributors and the professional gatekeepers who handle submissions. The case study suggests that the ‘collegial gatekeeping’ approach of ABC Open is resource- and labor-intensive, but succeeds by prioritizing quality over quantity in a long-term, non-profit initiative.

Killing the Comments: Examining the Demise of Online Comments Sections • Martin J. Riedl, The University of Texas at Austin • Media outlets are increasingly switching off comments sections – spaces formerly hailed as affordances for public deliberation. Drawing on the tragedy of the commons theory, this study explores media outlets’ rationales for such decisions. Applying textual analysis to 21 media outlets’ official statements to abandon comments sections, it identifies a taxonomy of justifications. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Commenters as political actors infringing on the field of journalism • David Wolfgang, Colorado State University • Journalists have become increasingly concerned with the behaviors of online commenters in news-mediated discourse. Commenters are seen as outsiders attempting to use the journalistic space to attack and make false claims. Journalists see these actions as a potential threat to the reputation and legitimacy of professional journalism. But should commenters be seen as potential new journalistic agents, or are they actually serving a political role? This study uses field theory to consider how online commenters at one large news organization engage in promoting ideology and political arguments and how journalists respond. Commenters see themselves as the defenders of political perspectives rarely seen in media and believe it is their duty to express them. Journalists, however, see these actions as a threat to journalism, rather than as the actions of a minority political group. The potential for this conflict to further divide journalists and their audiences is discussed.


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