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Citizen journalism


Curator(s): Akhil Bhardwaj and Raghav Sachdev, Students, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), National University of Juridical Sciences

Contributor: Anindita Mukherjee, Student, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), NALSAR University of Law

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Erik Ugland,Who is a Journalist and Why Does it Matter? Disentangling the Legal and Ethical Arguments, 22(4) Journal of Mass Media Ethics 241 (October 2007) [Open Access]
In this article, the author argues that the debate regarding the definition of the parameters of who a journalist is needs to be assessed and settled in two distinct domains: the law domain and the professional ethics domain. Using case law, the author delves into the finer nuances of the debate by looking at Constitutional law, statutory law and the distribution of informal privileges by government officials under the legal domain, and by distinguishing between public communicators, second-level journalists and top-level journalists under the professional ethics domain.

Joseph S. Alonzo, Restoring the Ideal Market Place: How Recognising Bloggers as Journalists Can Save the Press, 9 Legislation and Public Policy,751 (2006) [Open Access]

This article argues for the extension of journalistic privileges to bloggers, wherever applicable. While making a case for the recognition of bloggers as journalists by assessing the role of bloggers in dissemination of information to the public, the author deals with the larger question of the role of the press and the function of a journalist. The author hinges his argument on the ability of blogs in easy and free dissemination of information, their potential to lower barriers of entry to the marketplace and their role in deconsolidating media ownership, while uncovering the inadequacies of the Fourth Estate model of free press.

Lili Levi, Social Media and the Press, 90(5) North Carolina Law Review 1531 (2011-12) [Open Access]

In this article, the author argues that the increased role of social media in journalism has led to adverse effects on journalistic norms of accuracy, objectivity and accountability, among others. On the legal front, the author makes a case for increased press liability for defamation and violation of privacy rights, while attempting to engage with the negative consequences of recent congressional and administrative attempts to regulate online advertising and collect consumer information. The author takes social media and its influence as a given while formulating suggestions to combat the potential costs she identifies.

Clay Calvert, And You Call Yourself a Journalist?: Wrestling With a Definition of “Journalist” in the Law, 103 Dickinson Law Review 411 (1998-99) [Paid Access]

Through an analysis of three cases which deal with the question of who a journalist is, the author argues that the third of the trio of cases which lays down the Madden test is problematic since it uses one indefinable construct – news – to define another indefinable construct – journalist. While the author celebrates the possibility of the inclusion of non traditional forms of journalism in the definition of journalist under the Madden test, the author also criticises it for being far too flexible, giving Courts enough leeway to define journalists based on vague and fickle notions of news

Eric P. Schmidt, Hot News Misappropriation in the Internet Age, 9 Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law 313 (2011) [Open Access]

In this note, the author examines hot news misappropriation as a tool to fight online news content piracy in light of two cases – the AHN case and the fly on the wall case. After a comparison between hot news misappropriation and modern copyright law, the author concludes that misappropriation can be used as a flexible enforcement mechanism against free riders who seek to violate industry norms of fair competition, only if a new understanding of these norms can be reached.

Janelle L. Cornwall, It Was the First Strike of Bloggers Ever: An Examination of Article 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights as Italian Bloggers Take a Stand Against The Alfano Decree, 25 Emory International Law Review 499 (2011) [Open Access]

Arguing against the Alfano Decree, the author notes that the implementation of the decree would jeopardise the status of Italy as a democratic nation, arguably establishing a dictatorship, and in effect violating Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Taking the role and the rise of bloggers as his starting point, the author delves into an analysis of the case law dealing with the right to freedom of expression under the Convention. The author, after a detailed analysis of what constitutes a legitimate interference with the right to free expression under the ECHR, deems the Decree violative of the ECHR, and the penalties imposed under it too harsh.

Parul Aggarwal, Citizen Journalism: In Pursuit of Accountability in India, Reuters Institute Fellowship Paper, University of Oxford (2012) [Open Access]

In this article, the author attempts to engage with the concept of citizen journalism and its impact on mainstream media in a country like India. With the help of two case studies, the author argues that citizen journalism in India is marked by a lack of accountability, further moulded by 24 hour news cycles and the need for diversity of perspectives. The author further argues that while citizen journalism helps creating a culture of transparency and efficiency, it is still managed by traditional media channels due to lack of internet access to the masses.
Josh Stearns, Acts of Journalism: Defining Press Freedom in the Digital Age,

In this article, the author argues that protection must be given to all acts of journalism, especially pointing towards non traditional forms. The author delves into the central question of what constitutes an act of journalism, and whether such definition is rooted in the ‘journalist’s’ ethics, behaviour or intent.

Nicole A. Stafford, Lose the Distinction: Internet Bloggers and First Amendment Protection of Libel Defendants – Citizen Journalism and the Supreme Court’s Murky Jurisprudence Blur the Line Between Media and Non-Media Speakers, 84 University of Detroit Law Review 597 (2006-07) [Paid Access]

In this comment, the author traces the history and growth of blogging and provides an analysis of the Supreme Court’s libel jurisprudence in order to argue that non-media internet speakers, especially bloggers, should get the same protection under the First Amendment as the institutional media, in defamation suits. The author argues that blogs propagate the free speech doctrine, and in a way, epitomise the ‘free marketplace of ideas’ concept, and therefore, merit the same level of protection as traditional forms of media.

Jianlan Zhu, Roadblock and Roadmap: Circumventing Press Censorship in China in the New Media Dimension, 30(2)  University of La Verne Law Review 404 (2008-09) [Open Access]

This paper explores the impact of the emergence of new forms of media in China. The author provides an analysis of the impact of new media vis-à-vis the press control policies active in China, using four major news events from 2003-2008. The author argues that with the emergence of new media in China, freedom of press is no longer a distant dream.

Joshua Rich, New Media and the News Media: Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale and the Reporter’s Privilege in the Digital Age, 45 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 963 (2011-12) [Open Access]

This Comment examines the case of Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale, in which the Supreme Court of New Jersey explored the question of whether or not a blogger can enjoy the same privileges under the shield law, as a traditional journalist. The Court was one of the first few to apply journalists’ privilege in cyberspace. The author, however, argues that the Court’s opinion that such protection could not be granted to a woman who posted her reporting on a message board on the Internet, leaves much to be desired – in terms of the purpose and importance of shield law, as well as the values that underlie the First Amendment.

Stephanie B. Turner, Protecting Citizen Journalists: Why Congress Should Adopt a Broad Federal Shield Law, 30 Yale Law & Policy Review 503 (2011-12) [Open Access]

In this comment, the author argues that non-traditional journalists should receive the same kind of protection received by traditional journalists. By analysing the rationale behind the privilege and the role played by citizen journalists in dissemination of vital information, the author concludes that a broad federal shield law, in the same vein as that applicable in California and New Jersey, is the need of the hour.

Clay Calvert, Putting the Shock Value in First Amendment Jurisprudence: When Freedom for the Citizen-Journalist Watchdog Trumps the Right of Informational Privacy on the Internet, 13 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law 323 (2010-11) [Open Access]

This Article explores the First Amendment right vis-à-vis the right to online informational privacy. The author examines a number of cases dealing with ‘shock value’ of the First Amendment, right up till the ruling in Ostergren v. Cuccinelli. The article also studies the watchdog function of the press, and how it has come to be performed by citizen journalists on the internet. Finally, the author argues that the Court, in Ostergren, failed to differentiate between two strands within shock value cases – “speech that shocks because it violates norms of civil discourse-causing anger and emotional outrage and speech that shocks because it intrudes on financial security.”

George Lazaroiu, Conceptualising Gatekeeping in the Digital Era, 3(1) Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 152 (2011) [Paid Access]

This article explores the convergence and divergence of blogging and traditional journalism as two distinct forms of journalism. It also explores the function of journalism in light of the emergence of new media and the increasing influence of bloggers. The author also examines the challenges new media journalism poses to mainstream media, in light of the proliferation of news providers on the internet.

Miriam A. Cherry, Virtual Whistleblowing, 54 South Texas Law Review 9 (2013) [Open Access]

The author, in her exploration of virtual whistleblowing, examines the concept of virtual whistleblowers, the need for providing protection to them, and why special kinds of protections are needed for those who use blogs to blow the whistle – both in cases of virtual and non-virtual workers. The author uses the example WikiLeaks to deal with concerns such as national security vis-à-vis legal protection of whistleblowers. The author argues that keeping in mind the graduation of media from traditional forms to non traditional forms, extending journalists’ privileges, such as those under the shield law, to bloggers, is needed in order to secure whistleblowers.

PreetiMudliar, Jonathan Donner and William Thies, Emergent Practices around CGNetSwara: A Voice Forum for Citizen Journalism in Rural India, 9(2) Information and Communication Technologies and Development, Special Issue 65-79 (2012) [Open Access]

Recognising the absence of participation by rural communities in mainstream media, this article examines an effort to promote a more inclusive dialogue by means of a simple technology: an interactive voice forum. CGNetSwara is a system that allows callers to record messages of local interest, as well as listen to messages recorded by others. The article is a product of interviews conducted with 42 stakeholders which includes callers, bureaucrats, and members of the media. The article examines how this platform could lead to social inclusion for those who are underprivileged.

Axel Bruns, News Produsage in a Pro-Am Mediasphere: Why Citizen Journalism Matters, in Chapter 8, News Online: Transformations and Continuities, eds. Graham Meikle and Guy Redden (2010) [Open Access]

While arguing against the conventional usage ‘citizen journalism’, Bruns advocates for the term Pro-Am where those engaged in journalism professionally and those engaged as amatures may explore the opportunities that emerge from cooperation on common ground. After citing instances of such cooperation Bruns traces reasons for the emergence of such models such as the financial advantage of content generated by armatures as well as the growing demand amongst consumers for the ability to meaningfully engage with news reports.

Axel Bruns, Citizen Journalism and Everyday Life: A Case Study of Germany’s, Future of Journalism Conference (September 2009) [Open Access] is a German-based citizen journalism website which provides a nationwide platform for participants to contribute reports about events in their community. Drawing on extensive interviews with myHeimat CEO Martin Huber and Madsack newspaper editors Peter Taubald and Clemens Wlokas, Bruns analyses the myHeimat project and examines its applicability beyond rural areas in Germany; and investigates the greater role citizen journalism may play beyond political reports and commentary. Bruns further comments appreciatively on the unique model of myHeimat whereby professional and amature journalists collaborate to create content.

Seth C. Lewis, Kelly Kaufhold, and Dominic L. Lasorsa, Thinking About Citizen Journalism: The Philosophical And Practical Challenges Of User-Generated Content For Community Newspapers, 4(2) Journalism Practice 163- 179 (2010) [Open Access]

Through this paper the Authors analyse their findings from interviews with editors of newspapers in Texas on the practical and philosophical arguments in favour of and against citizen journalism. The paper fits this debate within the larger debate over the place and purpose of user- generated content in the news production process. The viability of gatekeeping in light of participatory media and increasing digitization too is examined.

Mary-Rose Papandrea, Citizen Journalism and the Reporter’s Privilege, 91 Minnesota Law Review 515-591 (2007) [Open Access]

After examining the changing nature of journalism into a participative act rather than the unilateral production of professionals, the Author delves into the historical purpose of reporter’s privilege and its scope determining to whom it attaches. The Author further analysis the merits of alternative approaches to reporter’s privilege such as excluding citizen journalists, limit privilege to publications on matters of public concern as well as various ‘functional’ approaches whilst advocating a new functional approach to privilege.

Luke Goode, Social news, citizen journalism and democracy, 11 New Media Society 1287 (2009) [Open Access]

Luke Goode examines the democratic implications of citizen journalism and social news. He calls for a broad conception of ‘citizen journalism’, which is not restricted to online reporting and ‘alternative’ sources of news. The article further calls for investigation into new forms of gatekeeping and agenda setting within social news networks. Further the Author, using the example of three websites, highlights the importance analyzing the software ‘code’ structuring these new modes of news production to identify and understand the potential patterns and gatekeeping processes that can emerge via the software code underpinning these sites.

Adam J. Rappaport & Amanda M. Leith, Brave New World? Legal Issues Raised by Citizen Journalism, 25(2) Communications Lawyer (Summer 2007) [Open Access]

The premise of this report is that those that were formally considered to be merely the audience are today participating in the reporting processes with the advent of technology, creating legal issues such as conventional media law and intellectual property concepts are yet to be adapted and applied in this realm. Acknowledging that many of the legal issues cited are at this point theoretical, the Author identifies possible issue areas such as reader comments, reader blogs, user generated videos, crowdsourcing, reverse publishing, hyperlocal reader- generated news, defamation and liability for unlawfully acquired information amongst others.

Axel Bruns, The Active Audience: Transforming Journalism from Gatekeeping to Gatewatching, Queensland University of Technology [Open Access]

Bruns analyses the effect of citizen journalism in undermining the traditional position of influence and importance held by mainstream mediahouses. This article argues that as a result of the advent of citizen journalism and the growing demand for user generated content, an alternative to gatekeeping has emerged which does not operate from a position of authority but only “harnesses the collective intelligence and knowledge of dedicated communities to filter the newsflow and to highlight and debate salient topics of importance to the community”.

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