What is citizen journalism? A critical analysis from the perspective of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation.
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RAI, N. 2016. What is citizen journalism? A critical analysis from the perspective of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.
With the rise of internet literacy across the world, men and women on the street are increasingly participating in the news media more than ever before. Early speculations about the influence of citizen journalism imbued the practice with an almost messianic ability to save both journalism and democracy. Whilst these suggestions were influenced by a small amount of data analysis, mainly from Western countries, they were encouraging and demonstrated the potential of citizen journalism in representing the voice of ordinary people. This thesis suggests that citizen journalism is not only promoting the perspective of ordinary citizens, but is also supplementing the coverage of the mainstream media, building relationships, shaping the public sphere, and fulfilling the critical role of a watchdog. Analysing data from a sample of twenty-four different English language citizen journalism sites, this thesis examines the phenomenon of citizen journalism, focusing on the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation. Employing a mixed methods approach, quantitative and qualitative analyses were undertaken of the data set. The results show that citizen journalism sites in the larger and more developed SAARC countries provide more coverage of news than those in the smaller and underdeveloped countries. Political news is given the highest priority by the majority of the sites whilst news about war and terrorism is given the least. The analysis has also discovered that the sites function as a bridge, bringing people living in different parts of the world together and enabling them to engage in political discourse and the sharing of knowledge and experience. Moreover, citizen journalism is helping people to educate themselves about the culture and political systems of their new countries while also forming their own community online. This was particularly the case with the sites that were owned and operated by the diaspora people living in the West. In addition, with a few exceptions, the majority of the sites make substantial use of supplementary materials to enhance news articles, encouraging readers to participate in interactive news activities, such as posting comments. The study has also found that citizen journalists come from a wide range of backgrounds, from politicians acting as citizen journalists to students aspiring to generate revenues through commercial advertising on the Internet. However, they differ from each other in terms of their news values and news presentation — some of the sites offer more political news than others whilst others behave more like the mainstream media, providing a wide range of news articles. On the other hand, a few of the sites are less active and provide fewer news articles than others. The study has also found that citizen journalists from the SAARC countries include works of fiction as part of their news output, thus offering the slightly different definition of citizen journalism from that in the West.