From citizen journalism to the platformization of news – Insights from D2.4
Miguel Crespo, journalist, editorial consultant and assistant researcher at the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology / Centro de Investigação e Estudos de Sociologia (CIES-Iscte) of ISCTE-IUL, shares some insights from D2.4 “Catalogue of Best Practices in Citizen Journalism – From citizen journalism to the platformization of news”.
The report “Catalogue of Best Practices in Citizen Journalism” presents a context on how we move from the concept of citizen journalism to crowdsourcing journalism and, in a third stage, to the platformization of news. In this report, we try better defining citizen collaboration and interaction with journalism and journalists.
With the goal of studying how citizens produce, share and remix journalistic contents, we devised three possible paths to categorize the interaction between citizens and 1) journalism, 2) journalists, and 3) journalistic practices: citizen collaboration in journalistic production, how citizens emulate journalistic practices, and how citizens use/ reuse journalism in the platforms.
The first group is the one where citizens collaborate in journalistic production. The second group is the one where citizens emulate journalistic practices (without journalists’ collaboration), to produce information that: 1) looks like news stories 2) uses some journalistic reporting techniques, or 3) tries to fit into the ethical framework of journalism.
The third group include projects where citizens reuse/ remix and reproduce journalistic content (without journalists’ collaboration). These can go from clippings and reproducing traditional media news on other platforms, like blogs or social media, but also reusing journalistic content as a source of information for communities with specific interests (i.e. local or thematic), frequently accompanied by comments, remarks or highlights relevant to the community. In some cases, citizens remix journalistic content, mixing different sources to create something partially new or with new contextual significance.
The report develops an analysis of professional and user-generated news contents, so as to provide us with a better understanding of the potentialities, limits, and reliability of so-called citizen journalism. Regardless of the term used – citizen journalism, participatory journalism, or open-source journalism –, there is a major consensus over the following definitions : 1) the interest of citizens to collaborate with journalists 2) the learning and putting into practice of journalism principles and techniques or 3) adding context to journalism, which is always positive for public discussion in democratic societies.
The Internet has brought interactive potential for enhancing public life and the capability of destroying the journalists’ monopoly over news making. Accepting that citizens may have, and must have, an active presence in platforms, and that journalism standards and content can be an important part of that citizenship presence, is probably the most important outcome of this report.
Social media, podcasts, blogs, open-source software sites, and wikis, have paved the way for an increasingly individualized civic environment, a participatory journalism within news on proprietary platforms and the engagement of journalists with citizens as active participants in news production processes via platforms.
Even so, studies have shown that professional journalists are rather skeptical about interactivity with their users, and that they still like to think about the role of journalism in terms of the top-down model of trustee journalism. We also have to frame the platformization of journalism within the concept of produsage as a model for describing the user-led content creation environments.
The first challenge is to define what is journalism, as a professional practice framed by ethical and deontological commitments of honor, legal regulations (like other liberal professions), and peer recognition / approval / validation. Generally consisting in the application of certain techniques and knowledge, professional journalism takes various forms, including the organization into associations, the formation of press councils and the drawing up of principles of good practice in the form of codes of practice and ethics. In short, professional journalism ultimately reveals the values that journalists publicly proclaim as guidelines for their work.
Nowadays, “any citizen” can take the risk, armed with all the necessary material, to be the first to collect information, a photo, a statement or even a video of a certain event that occurred at a certain place, time and date. So, citizens can collaborate, act as information gatherers (sources), and/or reuse and reproduce journalism.
On the report we gather some best practices examples from different European countries, and in different languages (including non-European), assembled into the three categories. For each case we present a short description, including main themes/ subject matter, geographical scope, main audience, languages, and why the case study fits the category. The examples were selected and provided by the project partners, each responsible to choose their countries examples, to assure the proximity, language knowledge, understanding of the context and relevance for the report.
Especially on platforms, citizen journalism is embedded in the lifeworld in which citizens participate in everyday politics and community storytelling networks. Citizens not only consume but also produce “news” and information in a wide variety of communication platforms and sources.
Citizens are connected to multiple sectors, such as political, market, media, and civil society sectors. In this context, citizen journalism practice is deeply embedded in multiple sectors in society. By sharing and/or commenting on news stories on social media, citizens engage in citizen journalism activities and this practice contributes to civic outcomes, such as civic participation, neighborhood belonging, and collective efficacy. In a time of declining public trust in news, loss of advertising revenue, and an increasingly participatory, self-expressive and digital media culture, journalism is in the process of rethinking and reinventing itself. The relation between journalism and citizens finds itself, likewise, in a similar situation.
Download the Deliverable 2.4 “Catalogue of Best Practices in Citizen Journalism”