Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Users as Participants in the Process of Making Journalism: The Enhanced Communicative Power of Networked Individuals

Academic journal article Geopolitics, History and International Relations

Users as Participants in the Process of Making Journalism: The Enhanced Communicative Power of Networked Individuals

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

The aim of the present study is to examine and evaluate the perception of users as members of a peer community, today's fragmented and rapidly changing media environment, the integration of blogging and other forms of usergenerated content into journalism, and the adoption of audience participation in news production. The results of the current study converge with prior research on the reliance of the global public on citizen journalists, the relationship between media producers, gatekeepers and consumers, the enhanced communicative power of networked individuals, and the role of the non-professional journalist in the news space.

Keywords: Internet-enabled digital media, user-generated content

1. Introduction

Scholarly research reveals strong correlations between the rise of online journalism, the dynamics and opportunities presented by the Internet, the unbundling of news on the Web, and the creative and economic challenges posed by Internet-enabled digital media. The theory that I shall seek to elaborate here puts considerable emphasis on professionals' appreciation of users' ability to offer journalistically meaningful content, the emerging relationships between the people inside and outside the newsroom, the status of journalism professionals in determining the extent and nature of social communication, and the ability of users to become active collaborators in the journalistic process. In the present paper, I focus on the role of technology in shaping newsroom adoption of audience participation, the relationship between professionals and users as participants in the journalistic work process, users' potential as valuable sources of information, and the ability of readers to contribute to professional journalism. Related topics I will explore include the rise of the blogosphere, social networking sites as potential sources of news and information, the virtually-instantaneous interactive world, the dangers inherent in the citizen journalism process, and the mediascape of online news. The paper generates insights about the potential use and value of audience participation, the relationship between journalists and users in today's online media, new developments in mobile and digital culture, and the potency of citizen journalism.

2. The Ability of Users to Become Active Collaborators in the Journalistic Process

Hermida focuses on the opportunities that active audience members have to influence the processes of producing and distributing news. With online media, newspapers offer a myriad of opportunities for readers to participate and interact with the news or the publication. Online newspapers frame participation primarily as the public's ability to engage in a debate on current events. Most of the available options for participation frame the user primarily as a consumer of journalism. The way participatory tools are implemented and managed in newsrooms is determined by the availability of the technology, and is shaped by the newsroom ethos (the ethos of the newspaper organizations and their journalists forms a prism to shape the opportunities for audience participation).

It therefore seems reasonable to suggest that news websites may be evolving into hybrid sites that focus on both content and community. Hermida argues that digital media technologies enable users to create and distribute information based on their own observations or opinions (digital technologies enable the audience to assume some of the communication functions necessary for the whole process to work effectively). Digitalization and convergence have blurred the distinctions between producers and audiences. Major newspapers are generally averse to opening up significant stages of the news-production process to the audience.1

Heinonen notes that professional news workers justify their special role and privileges in society by referring to their public service function (the social function of journalism in the democratic process provides the context for defining the nature of the relationship between audience members and journalists). …

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