Citizen Journalism

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From the Wikipedia article:



"Citizen journalism, also known as Participatory Journalism is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. They say, "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."

Citizen journalism should not be confused with Civic Journalism, which is practiced by professional journalists. Citizen journalism usually involves empowering ordinary citizens -- including traditionally marginalized members of society."

An alternative concept is now proposed by Jay Rosen, i.e. Networked Journalism


Zuckerman/Giussani model


"Zuckerman talks about 3 distinct models for Citizen Journalism:

  • Opportunistic – being in the right place at the right time
  • Participatory – creating or engaging around a themed project
  • Citizen Experts –subject matter experts deepening discussion

Giussani builds on Zuckerman thinking filling out with links, quotes and insights on technologies and processes that newsrooms need.

Both see differences in the role of traditional journalists and citizen journalists with the former more focused on temporal events and the latter public and personal reaction to those events – but that relationship is symbiotic.

Giussani takes these models and relates them to the ingredients that the newsroom needs to manage. He sees three broad trends:

  • Assembled media – embedding info assembled elsewhere
  • Read/Write Media – involving the ‘audience’
  • Media as Places – connection points for community"


The Outing model

Steve Outing distinguishes a hierarchy of 11 layers:

The full article gives an extensive analysis of the various models with concrete examples for each.


1. The first step: Opening up to public comment

2. Second step: The citizen add-on reporter

A small step up the ladder is to recruit citizen add-on contributions for stories written by professional journalists.

3. Now we're getting serious: Open-source reporting

The term generally is understood to mean a collaboration between a professional journalist and his/her readers on a story, where readers who are knowledgeable on the topic are asked to contribute their expertise, ask questions to provide guidance to the reporter, or even do actual reporting which will be included in the final journalistic product.

4. The citizen bloghouse

A great way to get citizens involved in a news Web site is to simply invite them to blog for it. A number of news sites do this now, and some citizen blogs are consistently interesting reads.

5. Newsroom citizen 'transparency' blogs

A specific type of citizen blog deserves its own category here. It plays on the notion of news organization "transparency," or sharing the inner workings of the newsroom with readers or viewers. This involves inviting a reader or readers to blog with public complaints, criticism, or praise for the news organization's ongoing work.

6. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Edited version

This next step involves establishing a stand-alone citizen-journalism Web site that is separate from the core news brand. It means establishing a news-oriented Web site that is comprised entirely or nearly entirely of contributions from the community.

7. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Unedited version

This model is identical to No. 6 above, except that citizen submissions are not edited. What people write goes on the site: blemishes, misspellings and all.

8. Add a print edition

For this model, take either No. 6 or No. 7 above (stand-alone citizen-journalism Web site, either with edited submissions or a hands-off editing approach) and add a print edition.

9. The hybrid: Pro + citizen journalism

The next step up the ladder creates a news organization that combines citizen journalism with the work of professionals. South Korean site OhmyNews is the best example of this approach.

10. Integrating citizen and pro journalism under one roof

Now we enter the world of theory, because I've yet to find anyone taking this bold step yet. Imagine, then, a news Web site comprised of reports by professional journalists directly alongside submissions from everyday citizens. This is slightly different than No. 9, above, because on any one page there will be a mix of professionally written (paid) and citizen-submitted (free) content -- labeled appropriately so that the reader knows what he/she is getting -- rather than the more typical walling-off of citizen content as a way of differentiating it from the work of professionals.


It's this vision of citizen journalism complementing and adding to professional journalism that is so compelling -- at least in theory. Few news organizations have the staff manpower to cover everything that their readers are interested in, but by tapping the volunteer (or cheap) resources of the citizenry, a news organization can potentially provide coverage down to the Little League team and church-group level, as well as offer better and more diverse coverage of larger issues by bringing in more voices and perspectives.

This is the model that perhaps gets closest to what citizens'-media pioneers like Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor espouse: When news becomes a conversation, and not just a lecture. It's professional journalist and community member sharing the online media publishing space, to the benefit of the audience.

In these early days of citizen journalism -- especially in the U.S. -- publishers seem skittish about this combining of pro and amateur/citizen content. They're more likely to wall off citizen submissions, as though they shouldn't "contaminate" the work of the professionals. I suspect that that attitude will wear off in time, and that this complementary approach will bring professional and citizen closer together -- to the ultimate benefit of the audience.

11. Wiki journalism: Where the readers are editors

Finally, in the "way out there" category, comes wiki news. The most well known example is the WikiNews site, a spinoff of the famed Wikipedia public encyclopedia, which allows anyone to write and post a news story, and anyone to edit any story that's been posted. It's an experimental concept operating on the theory that the knowledge and intelligence of the group can produce credible, well-balanced news accounts.


Some sites practice Revenue Sharing with producers of news articles.

"Examples from an article in [At Scoopt, photographers receive 50% of the selling price of their pictures, while ScooptWords shares 50% of the first sale and 75% of all subsequent sales with its writers/bloggers. ScoopLive shares 85% of revenues each time they license a contributor’s photo. SpyMedia pays an average of 100 USD per picture.

South African online newscaster Reporter has a more elaborate scheme: contributions are graded as Gold for homepage material, Silver for top placement on section pages, and Bronze for all other contributions, which carry a payment fee of R35, R20 and R15 per published contribution. South Korean OhMyNews pays 20,000 Korean won for a story published on its main page. A story published in a section (at the top) yields 10,000 Korean won." (


Henry Jenkins interviews Axel Bruns on his concept of Produsage in citizen journalism:

HJ: Your analysis emphasizes the value of "unfinished artifacts" and an ongoing production process. Can you point to some examples of where these principles have been consciously applied to the development of cultural goods?

AB: My earlier work (my book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production, and various related publications) has focussed mainly on what we've now come to call 'citizen journalism' - and (perhaps somewhat unusually, given that so much of the philosophy of produsage ultimately traces back its lineage to open source) it's in this context that I first started to think about the need for a new concept of produsage as an alternative to 'production'.

In JD Lasica's famous description, citizen journalism is made up of a large collection of individual, "random acts of journalism", and certainly in its early stages there were few or no citizen journalists who could claim to be producers of complete, finished journalistic news stories. Massive projects such as the comprehensive tech news site Slashdot emerged simply out of communities of interest sharing bits of news they came across on the Web - a process I've described as gatewatching, in contrast to journalistic gatekeeping -, and over the course of hours and days following the publicisation of the initial news item added significant value to these stories through extensive discussion and evaluation (and often, debunking).

In the process, the initial story itself is relatively unimportant; it's the gradual layering of background information and related stories on top of that story - as a modern-day palimpsest - which creates the informational and cultural good. Although for practical reasons, the focus of participants in the process will usually move on to more recent stories after some time, this process is essentially indefinite, so the Slashdot news story as you see it today (including the original news item and subsequent community discussion and evaluation) is always only ever an unfinished artefact of that continuing process. (While Slashdot retains a typical news-focussed organisation of its content in reverse-chronological order, this unfinishedness is even more obvious in the way Wikipedia deals with news stories, by the way - entries on news events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 London bombings are still evolving, even years after these events.)

This conceptualisation of news stories (not necessarily a conscious choice by Slashdot staff and users, but simply what turned out to make most sense in the context of the site) is common throughout citizen journalism, where community discussion and evaluation usually plays a crucial role - and it's fundamentally different from industrial journalism's conception of stories as discrete units (products, in other words) which are produced according to a publication schedule, and marketed as 'all the news that's fit to print'.

And that's not just a slogan: it's essentially saying to audiences, "here's all that happened today, here's all you need to know - trust us." If some new information comes along, it is turned into an entirely new stand-alone story, rather than added as an update to the earlier piece; indeed, conventional news deals relatively poorly with gradual developments in ongoing stories especially where they stretch out over some time - this is why its approach to the continuing coverage of long-term disasters from climate change to the Iraq war is always to tie new stories to conflict (or to manufacture controversies between apparently opposing views where no useful conflict is forthcoming in its own account). The more genuinely new stories are continually required of the news form, the more desperate these attempts to manufacture new developments tend to become - see the witless flailing of 24-hour news channels in their reporting of the current presidential primaries, for example.

By contrast, the produsage models of citizen journalism better enable it to provide an ongoing, gradually evolving coverage of longer-term news developments. Partly this is also supported by the features of its primary medium, the Web, of course (where links to earlier posts, related stories and discussions, and other resources can be mobilised to create a combined, ongoing, evolving coverage of news as it happens), but I don't want to fall into the techno-determinist trap here: what's happening is more that the conventional, industrial model of news production (for print or broadcast) which required discrete story products for inclusion in the morning paper, evening newscast, or hourly news update is being superceded by an ongoing, indeterminate, but no less effective form of coverage.

If I can put it simply (but hopefully not overly so): industrial news-as-product gets old quickly; it's outdated the moment it is published. Produsage-derived news-as-artefact never gets old, but may need updating and extending from time to time - and it's possible for all of us to have a hand in this." (

More Information

  1. Guide to Citizen Journalism
  2. List of Citizen Journalism websites


  1. 8 strategies to make hyper-local citizen journalism successfull
  2. Interview with Jay Rosen on Open Source Journalism, at
  3. Steve Outing distinguishes 11 layers of citizen journalism at


The National Union of Journalsits published the Witness Contributors’ Code of Practice to address the important issues raised by the phenomenon of "citizen journalism." The Code sets down ways in which organisations and individuals can maintain the highest professional and ethical standards in the new media environment. It covers concerns about accuracy and checking sources, payment to contributors, copyright and moral and legal rights.

Available at


  1. Arianna Huffington on Citizen Journalism
  2. See the video From Pamphlet to Blog