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Going beyond the mainstream?: online participatory journalism as a mode of civic engagement

Rannikko, Ulla J. (2010) Going beyond the mainstream?: online participatory journalism as a mode of civic engagement. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Practices commonly termed participatory or citizen journalism, such as blogging and publishing content in participatory news media, have triggered interest in academic and media discourses alike. The discussion has centred on the significance of participatory journalism and whether it leads to democratisation of media and to redefining journalism and its ethics. This thesis examines online participatory journalism practices and what enhances or impedes them by drawing on a close and systematic analysis of qualitative interviews with reporters and facilitators of participatory media. The research considers both the meso level of media organisations in their socio-cultural context and the micro level of reporters, and is comparative and transcultural in scope. The focus is on the international edition of the South Korean news organisation OhmyNews and on two Indymedia collectives, namely, Indybay in California in the USA and the no-longer active Vaikuttava Tietotoimisto in Finland. The study employs Dahlgren’s (2009) analytic frame of civic cultures that, although it downplays skills and somewhat problematically assumes equal weight of all dimensions, proved valuable in addressing several key aspects to participatory journalism as a mode of civic engagement. The research demonstrates how reporters’ journalistic activities do not exist in a vacuum, but are shaped by participatory media organisations, for example, through the values they promote and the type of journalism, the access to sources and training they facilitate. Furthermore, the thesis argues that participatory media practices are less distinct from those of mainstream media than may have been assumed. Underpinning the analysis of media organisations are the theories of alternative media and of voluntary associations, whereas Mouffe’s (2000a) political theory of agonistic pluralism is applied to assess the viability of an agonistic space online. The findings, apart from the instances of its constructive uses, point toward the difficulties in sustaining an agonistic online space.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Ulla J. Rannikko
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications

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