Enhancing Perceived Credibility of Citizen Journalism Web Sites

By Johnson, Kirsten A.; Wiedenbeck, Susan | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Enhancing Perceived Credibility of Citizen Journalism Web Sites


Johnson, Kirsten A., Wiedenbeck, Susan, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


This study examined whether information about a writer and hyperlinks on a citizen journalism Web site affected the perceived credibility of stories. Participants read stories from a popular citizen journalism Web site and rated the stories in terms of perceived credibility. Results show that hyperlinks and information about the writer do enhance perceived story credibility. Credibility is enhanced most greatly when both hyperlink and writer information are included and, to a lesser extent, when just hyperlink or writer information is present.

This study examines "markers" that can increase perceived credibility of stories on citizen journalism Web sites. Specifically this study looks at stories posted online via the citizen journalism Web site OhmyNews.com, and two markers of credibility - information about the writer and hyperlinks included in the story.

A previous study investigating elements that help and hurt the perceived credibility of Web sites indicated that including markers of expertise can help boost perceived credibility.1 In particular, that study found that Web sites can convey expertise through listing information about the author, as well as citations of, and references to, the author's work.

Building upon this study's additional exploration of such factors, perhaps citizen journalism sites can improve perceived credibility by providing information about those who write on the sites, as well as by allowing visitors to their sites to verify information easily through the use of hyperlinks embedded in the story.

Many studies have explored credibility perceptions of traditional media. However, the credibility of citizen journalism is a relatively new area. This study seeks to add to the body of literature on citizen journalism, as well as to expand on previous research in the areas of Web credibility and trust.

Background and Related Work

Antecedents to Citizen Journalism. The idea of allowing ordinary citizens to have a voice in news coverage is not new. The civic, or pub- lic journalism movement, allows the concerns of citizens to help shape the news agenda.2 The presidential election in 1988 is often cited as when civic journalism emerged. Journalists and others raised concerns that the election news being covered was not news of interest to citizens, and that journalists had not considered the public in their coverage.3

Citizen journalism is an exemplar of Web 2.0 applications that typically include collaboration among users, information sharing, and creativity via the Web. Gill argued that the idea of news as "conversation" has helped give rise to citizen journalism Web sites, because citizen journalism expands two-way communication between readers and media.4

Citizen Journalism. Citizen journalism, also referred to as "grassroots journalism" and "participatory journalism," is news content produced by ordinary citizens with no formal journalism training.5 In their paper titled "We Media: How Authences are Shaping the Future of News and Information/' Bowman and Willis define citizen journalism as citizens participating in the news process from the collecting of information through the dissemination of that information.6

Arguably the most well-known and popular citizen journalism Web site in the world is OhmyNews.com, rounded in February 2000. OhmyNews.com has an international English-language site, as well as a Korean site. Citizen journalists have flocked to these sites; the Korean site alone has more than 42,000 registered citizen journalists and ninetyfive full-time staff.7 Editors review and post hundreds of articles a day written by citizen journalists who contribute content. From February 2005 through July 2005 OhmyNews.com had anywhere from about 3 million to 18 million page views per day.8

According to Outing, there are many different models of citizen journalism.9 These models include readers commenting on already published articles, as can be found on the Northwest Voice and The Bakersfield Californian sites. …

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