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Volume 13, Number 2, 2013

Abstracts

How citizen journalism websites are working in Australia: news and discussion

Annie Taylor and A/Prof. John Cokley

A study of five websites in Australia in the general field of citizen journalism suggests there is an inverse relationship between the objectivity of stories on each site and the overall number of comments provided by audience members on the site, and that citizen journalism without objectivity can benefit the public good. There is also a preference among authors and participating audience members for stories which ranked highly for proximity of content to audience members, and for use of the site for discussion and social and political commentary rather than as a resource for news. Video and images were common but audio podcasts were absent. These findings, combined with earlier research, tend to support strategies by larger media corporations to start and encourage such participatory techniques as a way of building new, more viable audiences. This feature suggests a positive business outlook for these citizen journalism sites.

 

Outing the Minister: In the public interest, or greenwashing dodgy ethics? Reflecting on the ethics of care in a shape-shifting journalism environment.

Susie Eisenhuth

The questions addressed in this paper were sparked initially by the high profile Sydney story broadcast on Channel Seven on May 20, 2010, ‘outing’ a NSW Government minister as a homosexual. The issues raised by that tabloid television ‘scoop’ are considered here with reference to two other stories - all three coming together as a cautionary tale about ethics in journalism and the question of public interest. In particular the stories highlight the dilemmas that arise for journalism when the public and the deeply personal collide. Can journalists effectively apply a personal code of ethics when troubling stories come their way with the potential to damage their subjects, amid doubts over their claim to public interest? Should an ethic of care be deployed in such cases along with the ethics of justice more commonly referenced in relation to decision making in journalism? The three stories considered here been used by this author as productive case studies in discussions about ethics with postgraduate journalism students at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and to some extent the issues canvassed in those sessions are reflected in this paper.

 

No technology but still participatory journalists: Viewpoints from Zimbabwe’s rural folks.

Dr Bruce Mutsvairo

It has generally been accepted that non-professional media actors empowered by novel digitally networked technologies are changing the media landscape in the West. In contrast, this is less obvious in the case of sub-Saharan Africa. Recent years, however, have seen the emergence of a diverse range of citizen media in Africa, empowered by digital technologies such as mobile phones, blogs, micro blogs, video-sharing platforms, and mapping. Through participant observation as well as a review of the existing research, this study aims to critically analyse and position the impact of citizen journalism in the African discourse, specifically exploring the Zimbabwean case, where citizen journalism appears uniquely non-integrated with traditional reporting as journalists continue to question the ethical basis for commercially engaging alternative form of journalism. While others like South Africa-based Mail and Guardian’s ‘Thought Leader’ continue to coerce citizen participation, evidence on the ground show that conventional media in Zimbabwe is still skeptical about the prospects of embedding the works of citizen journalists into their mainstream packages. However, operating on their own, others like kubatana.net have thrived, further underscoring the perceived democratic value of citizen journalism. This research endeavors to examine and compare the citizen journalism narrative, contextualizing the largely uncovered rural setting in order to understand ways through which these communities communicate with little or no exposure to the Internet.

 

Exploring ways to improve online health news stories.

A/Prof.Trevor Cullen

For a long time, reporting health consisted largely of statistics on the number of deaths and cases of disease, or reporting on epidemiological data that affects people we do not know. While this is important for health officials, it is of little interest to audiences who are increasingly demanding information that is useful to their daily lives. And conserving one’s health is perhaps the most useful of all topics. Many have now added the internet to their personal health toolbox, helping them to gain a better understanding of an illness or medical condition. But how accurate and balanced is the information they read online, especially when many heath stories promote contradictory advice. This paper explores some of the shortcomings of online health news stories and suggests some practical ways to improve both the content and credibility.

 

Editor

Professor Alan Knight,
University of Technology, Sydney

Advisory Panel

Dr Judith Clarke, Baptist University, Hong Kong

Elliott S. Parker, Central Michigan University, USA

Dr Lee Richard Duffield, Queensland University of Technology

Jim Tully, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Dr Kasun Ubayasiri, Griffith University, Brisbane

Philip Cass, Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Stephen Stockwell, Griffith University, Gold Coast

Dr Steve Quinn, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China

     

Ejournalist: refereed media journal. ISSN 1444-741X