Harassment of local and citizen journalists

In 2019, the mayor is recorded as having bullied and criticised and been quite rude to journalists in the chamber. These journalists were employed by the local press however, and therefore had some support. After one of the worst occasions regarding a journalist’s use of the word ‘tip’ rather than recycling waste centre [check wording], the Bristol Post, fought back and put on their front page how unacceptable the bullying was.

Then editor of the Bristol Post, Mike Norton, told Press Gazette about the behaviour of the mayor:

“It is an abuse of the public platform which their roles bestow upon them.”

Norton told Press Gazette that such “petty and childish” behaviour “absolutely should not be in the job description of a city leader”.

“My feeling is that they are trying to control the narrative,” he added. “Ultimately they would prefer for journalists not to be present and don’t like the extra scrutiny the LDR is bringing.”

This is one of the few times that any media in Bristol has complained about the aggressive mayor and some of his cabinet.

Dan Jackson (2016) writes about “analysing the distinct challenges faced by marginalised groups who attempt to establish citizen journalism initiatives”. One of them is about “overcoming fear associated with assuming a public voice”

In various contexts—from across the world—we have seen how different forms of citizen journalism have helped marginalised communities gain public voice and empowerment, be it racial minorities (Gabriel 2016), feminist movements (Valle 2014), indigenous communities (Davies 2014) or, increasingly, globalised social movements (DeLuca and Lawson 2014).

As seen in the ability of the Bristol Post (BBC funded) reporter Postans to ‘fight back’ as such, citizen journalists do not have recourse to support from the media sphere. Bock (2011, 2) covers this and writes about citizen journalists, while having access to the public sphere, “do not have the power of news organizations behind them, nor can they claim the authority of membership in a socially recognized interpretative community”.

In Jackson’s (2016) piece, a grassroots organisation of citizen journalists was followed to assess how they participate and the process they go through.

The research identified three distinct challenges experienced by the marginalised groups we worked with in the process of learning about citizen journalism and adopting journalistic skills: firstly, low self-esteem, and physical and mental health challenges; secondly, accessible and adaptable technology; and, finally, the fear of reprisal when adopting a public voice.

In my methodology of being a citizen journalist to assess social media’s effects on political participation, I have found there is little recourse to support when adopting a public voice. I had informal help where I could ask professional journalists who were part of media organisations certain questions. They ranged from the ‘newsworthy’ value of information, whether something might be libel, whether I needed to ask other organisations for comments, ideas about who to ask for comments etc.

The difference in access to sources was also a huge issue. [Citation for literature?]

In one piece on the mayor’s faith advisor, I was advised to get a comment from the council, ask for a comment from the head of Bristol Pride, and pitch it to the Bristol Cable. I did all these and I had no response from any of them. When the Bristol City Council asked for who I was writing the piece and I answered for myself, they did not bother to reply anymore and didn’t answer any of my questions. Bristol Pride provided no reply, and the Bristol Cable editors and one of their reporters (three emails in total) did not reply at all.

So access to public information and public comment is also restricted when you are a citizen journalist. This lack of comment might also be seen as a way of showing the audience how ‘trustworthy’ (citation/sources to literature) some information or news source might be. It’s important.

It might be one of the reasons why the mayor of Bristol has set himself and presumably his cabinet members and staff (some?) a policy of ‘not engaging with the trolls’ as a strategy?


  • research article requirements for Journalism Practice
  • Find citations and sources from Daniel Jackson article about citizen journalism practices
  • Find Bock (2011) Citizen Video Journalists and Authority in Narrative: Reviving the Role of the Witness

Journalism Practice, 2016

Published by Joanna

A collection of fleeting thoughts that tend to focus around Bristol, food, movies, music and photography.

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