Participatory journalism is a new concept in which audiences engage in the creation and dissemination of information. This trend also leads to a change to the traditional journalistic gatekeeping process. For example, Helsingin Sanomat, the leading newspaper in Finland, invites readers to provide information for their investigative stories. The BBC has also set up a newsroom of professionals to deal with user-generated content.
Although some news organizations have invited audiences to provide contents, it can be assumed that these contents are not likely to meet journalistic principles such as verification, accuracy, and objectivity. Mirjana Pantic, assistant professor in the Department of Media, Communications, and Visual Arts at the Pace University, conducted a content analysis to examine the extent leading news organizations have been allowing user-generated contents.
The author analyzed the contents of 20 news websites: (1) cnn.com, (2) nytimes. com, (3) theguardian.com, (4) huffingtonpost.com, (5) bbc.co.uk, (6) foxnews.com, (7) timesofindia.indiatimes.com, (8) wsj.com, (9) usatoday.com, (10) reuters.com, (11) indianexpress.com, (12) nbcnews.com, (13) cnbc.com, (14) latimes.com, (15) nypost.com, (16) cbsnews.com, (17) thehindu.com, (18) abcnews.go.com, (19) chinadaily.com.cn, and (20) dw.com.
Results showed that four websites had specialized sections for reader material. India-based website hindu.com was one of them, which had a section “open page” with stories posted by various contributors. The content in this section varied, from reportage about the Indian Holi festival to family memories, personal reflections on journalism and stories about distinguished scholars.
Another Indian news organization, timesofindia.indiatimes.com, has a section “Citizen Reporter” where readers can express their viewpoints and share stories. CNN has a section named “CNN iReport” where readers are openly asked to share their news. The BBC has a section, “Have Your Say,” that invites readers to share their stories, pictures, and comments with the BBC team.
About 65 percent of the websites allow users to post comments on news stories. Some allow a limited amount of comments on specific stories or pages on the website. For example, Reuters allows users to participate in a debate within the “Analysis & Opinion” section, while the BBC allows comments within its “Have Your Say” section. However, the BBC team does not promise that comments will be published on the site due to its large volume.
The results suggest that the majority of the top news organizations are more likely to allow users to express their viewpoints about articles produced by professional journalists than to enable them to create their own stories.
To read the full text of the study: https://bit.ly/2BCNTT8
Pantic, M. (2018). Participatory spaces in online media: Half-opening the gates to users. Newspaper Research Journal, 39(4), 389-397.