What is credibility?
Citizen journalism can be really empowering for the average consumer; it transforms us from being the once dormant audience into being active participants, who both view and create content, turning us into produsers. We are constantly collaborating with an entire network of other average citizens to create a news sphere that stretches beyond the means of traditional journalism. “Citizen journalism is discursive and deliberative, and better resembles a conversation than a lecture” (Gillmor, 2003). It isn’t bound by the constraints of authority or obligation, and so information can be published at a more rapid and personal rate, being delivered to our very own newsfeed or mobile phone at any second.
The BBC have taken the idea of Citizen Journalism and embraced it. They have, over the past 10 years, been undergoing a process of restructuring to enable full utilisation of the content and resources that its average viewer has to share.
BBC took note on July 7th 2005, when terrorists bombed a London subway, sending the whole nation into a state of hysteria. Prior to the onslaught of photographs, emails and SMS messages being broadcast across the web, the explosion was deemed as nothing more than a “power surge”. It wasn’t until the story was taken into the hands of innocent bystanders that the full truth was revealed. Richard Sambrook, a BBC employee speculated, ‘when major events occur, the public can offer us as much new information as we are able to broadcast to them. From now on, news coverage is a partnership.‘
However, this new notion of citizen journalism has caused skepticism in some individuals, as they question the true credibility of the content these citizens contribute. Often these people associate citizen journalism with unreliability, not because it’s found to be fraud or false, but because the content is rarely filtered or fact-checked, and it is unlike how traditional media functioned where ‘the journalistic production was controlled through the practice of gatekeeping: the ‘gates’ of the journalistic publication were considered sacrosanct, and served as filters for news items which were considered to be unimportant, uninteresting, or otherwise irrelevant for audiences‘ (Bruns, 2009). This skepticism is not wrong, however it may be slightly old-fashioned.
Credibility is no less relevant to citizen journalism than it was regarding traditional media prior to the Internet. Rather than the value of credibility disappearing, all that it entails has shifted to adapt to the particular media platform being explored. That is, users of new media ‘seem to apply different criteria to different media’ (Carroll, 2011). This implies that users apply a different set of standards to judge the reliability of new convergent media platforms, than they do to judge traditional media. Research by Carroll and Richardson found that consumers trusted a news source based on identification and affiliation. Therefore, there exists a “perceived sameness” (Carroll & Richardson, 2011) that allows the citizen journalist, for example a blogger, to sate the reader’s perception of credibility by sharing a common set of values and beliefs. In short, consumers find credibility in a communicator’s ability to be relatable.
- Bruns, A 2007, ‘Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation’, Proceedings Creativity & Cognition 6, viewed 18 September 2014, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/6623/1/6623.pdf
- Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, viewed 18 September 2014, http://snurb.info/files/News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf
- Carroll, B & Richardson, R 2011, ‘Identification, Transparency, Interactivity; Towards a New Paradigm for Credibility for Single-Voice Blogs’, Writing for Digital Media, New York, NY: Routledge
- Sambrook, R 2005, ‘Citizen Journalism and the BBC’, Nieman Reports, 15 December, viewed 18 September 2014, http://niemanreports.org/articles/citizen-journalism-and-the-bbc/