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Hypergene MediaBlog » Participatory journalism defined

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Tuesday, 29 Oct 2002

Participatory journalism defined

There have been many terms in the last few years used to describe the form and function of weblogs, forums, collaborative publishing, online communities, etc.

Some terms describe the media that supports online communication and interaction — social media from AOL, sociable media from MIT, and collaborative media from Rusty Foster, founder of Kuro5hin. Other terms focus on the journalistic function of online communication — online journalism, network journalism, e-journalism, peer-to-peer journalism.*

The term we use — participatory journalism — is meant to describe the content and the intent of online communication that often occurs in collaborative and social media. Here’s the working definition that we’ve been using:

Participatory Journalism: When a citizen, or group of citizens, plays an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, comprehensive and relevant information that a democracy requires.
John Seely Brown, Chief Scientist of Xerox, further elaborates on participatory journalism in this passage from The Elements of Journalism
"In an era when anyone can be a reporter or commentator on the Web, ‘you move to a two-way journalism’ John Seely Brown suggests. The journalist becomes a ‘forum leader,’ or a mediator rather than simply a teacher or lecturer. The audience becomes not consumers, but ‘pro-sumers,’ a hybrid of consumer and producer.” (p.24)
Seely Brown’s description suggests a symbiotic relationship, which we are already seeing. But participatory journalism does not require a classically trained “journalist” to be the mediator or facilitator. Plenty of weblogs, forums, and online communities have proven this. The real question going forward: Is the mainstream media willing to collaborate with its audience?

Participate: Help us refine our definition of participatory journalism, by providing comments below. As well, we’d appreciate your thoughts on this chart. It compares participatory journalism with traditional journalism.

*Origins of terms: We have not fully researched the origin of the terms mentioned in this piece. The links provided are not meant to assert the origin or who coined the terms, but merely to provide examples. Some have recently asked about the origins of participatory journalism. Dale Peskin, executive director of New Directions of News, brought the phrase to our endeavors.

However, participatory journalism has also been used to describe politically engaged journalism. The term was also used by writer George Plimpton to describe his method of sports reporting. We even found this reference to participatory e-journalism.

Posted on Oct 29, 2002 | 10:42 am EST
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