Dr A. Citizen and Colleagues

The processes and presence of citizen journalism within the online setting brings the promise of more collective and communal avenues for addressing health issues. Bruns (2005, 70) details that, “citizen journalism embraces and embodies aspects of produsage [as discussed last week] and offers a multiplicity of perspectives on issues”. Produsers are able to highlight, share, discuss, debate and deliberate on health issues in order to identify the most constructive and applicable resources from the health information overload that exists on the web. These diverse perspectives are presented in an environment based on open participation; reliant on community evaluation; and reliant on a sense of Gatewatching, opposed to traditional methods of Gatekeeping.

Gatewatching operates on the premise that individuals are capable of making judgments about useful, interesting and worthwhile content, without relying on the “somewhat patronising tone of industrial journalism” (Bruns 2005, 74). In saying this though many sites will still maintain an element of hierarchical approaches for management purposes. One such example is Streetcorner which encourages local readers to submit their own health related news, views or commentary, while still employing staff to contribute further news items; manage consumer enquiries; and moderate content.

Each site may employ a different approach to both Gatewatching and communal evaluation. For example, the New York Times health section Well has specific journalist and reader defined roles, with readers limited in their contributions with the ability to only submit comments. Well has maintained a fairly conventional approach to journalism while evolving to an on-line format, and seeks to sift through medical research and expert opinions to collate a practical, collective intelligence, whilst maintaining a degree of perceived authority and reliability. As Flew (2008, 145) affirms, “A division between the producers and users of news remains even if there is scope to comment on stories”. Well is very much a “mainstream” on-line news site; whereas, Streetcorne constitutes a step towards a much more “emergent, bottom up” form of news site (Flew 2008, 145).

The benefits of each of these methods of journalism can be argued. The New York Time’s approach to Well seeks to preserve their reputation as a reliable and quality news source by limiting ‘amateur’ contributions. In comparison, Streetcorner aims to tap into the collective intelligence of produsers, rather than mere consumers, and allow a greater capacity for local knowledge. All forms of citizen journalism comprise alternative and vital additions to the production and consumption of traditional, commercial journalism.

The development of further sites that encourage the contributions of everybody and anyone would undoubtedly be beneficial for the health industry. This generation of discussion and debate centered on a multitude of health issues, from all around the world, would result in a collective intelligence comprised of a diverse range of perspectives. Through the new eyes of the conventionally considered ‘amateurs’, health professionals (and possibly a range of professionals?) may discover the means to solving some of society’s most prevalent and harrowing issues through the processes of produsage and the implementation of citizen journalism.  

 

Bruns, A. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, And Beyond: From Production To Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Flew, T. 2008. New Media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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2 Comments »

  1. crystalleung said

    Wow, Amanda what a great post! It is so interesting to see the contrasting of different approaches to gatewatching and communal evaluation. The way Well has approached to maintain the site in a more ‘expert’ valued system while Streetcorner endorses the approach of ‘folk’ valued system. It shows that journalists, both professional and citizen have created many different sites in this online, networked, information economy today. In saying so, these professionals and ‘amateurs’ would not create these sites if they feel that these information are not needed and/or wanted by the general public. Mainstream news and information by professional journalists has always minimised citizens’ involvement in its production. However, the necessity of non-bias, quality of news, information and opinion gradually increases.

    I have analysed Dave Pell’s blog The Skeptical Hypochondriac and I would consider it as a third kind of approach; in between Well and Streecorner. Pell’s blog provides personal health stories as well as personalised mainstream news in a professional yet witty style.

    http://skepticalhypochondriac.com/

    This new form of journalism is powerful and independent, it is definitely comparable to professional journalism and both forms of journalism need to be aware of each other’s existence and hope to co-exist in this system.

    Great post!

    Crystal

  2. […] Dr. A Citizen and Colleagues by Amanda […]

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