As mentioned in one of my previous articles, the mayor has a declared policy of ‘not engaging’ with the ‘trolls’, which doesn’t seem to include not calling people trolls, as he is alleged to have done.

He has allegedly called activists or people who write opinion pieces in local media, trolls in public meetings, and at least in one case is alleged to have called a person a troll to their face in conversation with others.

Trolling comes up a lot in relation to the mayor because not only has he emphasised it, but he also paid £90,000 of tax-payers’ money to find out what people were saying about him on Twitter — mostly.

An example of how he refers to Twitter can be found in an interview he gave at Christ Church, Clifton. He was asked about combining his faith with politics.

As part of his answer, he said: “There was a discussion in my office because we did begin to get some heat, yeah. It was all Twitter and all that kind of nonsense about ‘look Marvin’s trying to introduce a theocracy.

I challenge anyone who wants to challenge me for engaging with faith organisations; well, you step up and offer the level of solutions that are being offered by the faith community. Then you’re welcome through the door. But if all you wanna do is come and moan, and make snide comments on Twitter, I ain’t got time to expend my emotional energy on that.

Interestingly, the issue of Rees’ involvement with faith groups or the way of running public services through volunteers and churches is not a topic that gets covered on the BBC or the local Bristol papers/magazines. It’s not seen as newsworthy presumably. [sources]

So while noting the purported lack of engagement the mayor has with ‘that Twitter nonsense’, the council pays £3000 a month to get analysis on what social media are saying about the mayor.

We can know that it’s information gathered about the mayor specifically because of the keyword search used. Further information is available in the following article [link].

Topics needing literature:

  • journalistic authority [see sources, find literature]

Bock, M (2011) Citizen video journalists and authority in narrative: Reviving the role of the witness. Journalism
13(5) 639–653

Access to the public sphere, however, is not equivalent to authoritative power within it. Citizen video journalists (VJs) do not have the power of news organizations behind
them, nor can they claim the authority of membership in a socially recognized interpretive community.

Unlike typical news websites, community video websites do not use balanced language or make claims to journalistic objectivity. Their purpose is to give voice
to new and discernible points of view (Coffman, 2009).

To claim authority is to claim legitimate power. In the public sphere, authority is claimed as a discursive power to make declarations: to name things, frame things, or present them as ‘true’. Journalism is a specialized discursive practice that presumes to tell the truth – that is – to act authoritatively. Max Weber (1947) identified three sources of authority: rational, (rooted in law or social sanction), traditional (rooted in established social beliefs), and charismatic (derived from exemplary behavior or heroic acts on the part of an individual). Carlson (2006) noted that conventional journalism can claim all three
legitimating dimensions.

Citizen VJs, however, cannot claim rational authority because they operate outside of, and contest with, conventional journalistic institutions. Because they challenge traditional journalistic boundaries, they are also unable to draw upon Weber’s notion of ‘traditional’ authority. All that remains for the citizen is the charismatic authority that rests in the individual.

how, in practice, is such authority claimed?

Two primary bodies of discourse can be identified: first, the discourse surrounding practice, and second, the products of that work.

professional journalists continually defend their ‘territory’ as cultural arbiters of truth through discourse about their
own work (Bennett et al., 1985; Carlson, 2006, 2007; Zelizer, 1990a, 1993). Studies of journalists at work find that members of the profession share an ideology based in the norms of objectivity and public service, and they delineate their territory through discourse regarding those norms (Carlson, 2007; Deuze, 2005; Zelizer, 1990b, 1993).
Citizen VJs similarly delineate their boundaries through discourse, but it is a discourse of contestation, of working as outsiders to ‘big’ or ‘mainstream’ media (Garcelon, 2006; Platon and Deuze, 2003; Rosen, 2000).

The second discursive arena for establishing authority lies within the stories themselves, which are the focus of this article. Here the everyday decisions for crafting a story
are elements in constructing authority: the choice of facts to include or emphasize, the choice of literary voice, the choice of quotations or soundbites, the choice of visuals and sound, and the employment of vocal narration all become part of the way a story represents the authority of its creator (Allan, 1998; Chatman, 1978; Hall, 1973; Knobloch et al., 2004; Montgomery, 2006; Raymond, 2000; Van Dijk, 1985; Zelizer, 1990a).

… matter of factual and self-assured, with little or no trace of self-doubt, emotionality or uncertainty about the material it presents. It conveys seriousness, and where appropriate, urgency and even light touches of irony. News talk is confident talk, secure in its professionalism.
(Dahlgren, 1987: 42)

Textual narrative theory notes that writers can assume various forms of narration, and that these choices change the audience’s perception of the identity of a narrator and
author: (Chatman, 1978, 1990).

Hiding the creator is one way to shore up the story’s authority, as the subjective nature of human choice is subsumed by declarative narration.

birdhouse on a pencil

Discourses of witnessing — eyewitnesses vs secondhand sources.

Only actual acts of physical viewing constitute ‘pure’ witnessing as conceived by Durham Peters (2001). Witnessing in its purest form is imbued with a moral imperative to give testimony, whereas mediated witnessing does not (Ellis, 1992; Sontag, 2003, 2004; Taylor, 1998; Zelizer, 1998).

Ethnographic part:

The analytical method was adapted from propaganda scholar Siegfried Kracauer (1947) and allows for the examination of the verbal text, the images, and – significantly – their interrelationships in terms of diegetic and mimetic dimensions.

professional journalists are presumed to have the authority to tell news stories; in contrast, citizen VJs must use other strategies for establishing authority.

  1. The literary voice becomes more fluid.
  1. The creator is more likely to be known through script and image.
  2. Testimony of witnessing takes a more subjective tone.

Using elite voices to claim authority?

Traditional journalistic narrative blends testimonies of witnessing with the language of objectivity. A reporter is expected to observe, not participate; to report, not feel.

video has long functioned as an evidentiary tool for activists, but it is fast-becoming a part of community organization strategy

[interesting point. Might this be a clue as to which methodology to follow?]

In the conclusion: Citizen VJs changed authorial voice in the middle of stories and they mixed performance and observation without explanation. Such presentations have come under fire by one Columbia Journalism Review critic for turning ‘even the most compelling footage into a mish-mash’ (Massing, 2009).

A more significant impediment to full participation in the mediated public sphere for citizen VJs is the matter of time and money.

One non-professional who runs a local news website in San Mateo was initially enthusiastic about providing an alternative to the mainstream, but quickly discovered that, ‘I wish I’d known how hard it is to do journalism well. I’ve now learned by doing it how time-consuming it is to report, write, edit and fact-check news stories with integrity’(Parr, 2005).

The democratization of video technology, therefore, is only part of the equation: without significant support and resources, it is difficult for the occasional, unpaid citizen journalist to consistently produce counter-narratives


Allan S (1998) News from NowHere: Televisual news and the construction of hegemony. In: Bell A and Garrett P (eds) Approaches to Media Discourse. Oxford: Blackwell, 105–141.

Bennett WL, Gresett LA and Haltom W (1985) Repairing the news: A case study of the news paradigm. Journal of Communication 35(5): 50–68.

Bird SE and Dardenne RW (1987) Myth, chronicle, and story: Exploring the narrative qualities of news. In: Carey JW (ed.) Media, Myths and Narratives: Television and the Press. Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.

Carlson M (2007) Blogs and journalistic authority. Journalism Studies 8(2): 264–279.

Cook TE (2005) Governing the News: The News Media as a Political Institution. Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press.

Deuze M (2005) What is journalism? Journalism 6(4): 442–464.

Garcelon M (2006) The ‘Indymedia’ experiment: The internet as movement facilitator against institutional control. Convergence 12(1): 55–82.

Glasgow University Media Group (1976) Bad News. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Hartley J (1982) Understanding News. London: Methuen.
Hess S (1981) Washington reporters. Society 18(4): 55–66.

Massing M (2009) Out of focus. Columbia Journalism Review March/April: 41–44.

Parr B (2005) Things I wish I’d known before I became a citizen journalist. Neiman Reports
Winter: 29–31.
Peters JD (2001) Witnessing. Media, Culture and Society 23(6): 707–723.

Platon S and Deuze M (2003) Indymedia journalism. Journalism 4(3): 336–355.
Raymond G (2000) The voice of authority: The local accomplishment of authoritative discourse in
live news broadcasts. Discourse Studies 2(3): 354–379.
Rosen J (2000) Questions and answers about public journalism. Journalism Studies 1(4): 679–694.

Sigal L (1973) Reporters and Officials: The Organization and Politics of Newsmaking. Lexington, MA: DC Heath and Co

Tuchman G (1978) Making News: A Study in the onstruction of Reality. London: The Free Press, A division of Macmillan Publishing

Van Dijk T (1985) Structures of news in the press. In: Van Dijk T (ed.) Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media Discourse and Communication. Berlin: deGruyter, 69–93.

Zelizer B (1990a) Achieving journalistic authority through narrative. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 7(4): 366–376.

Zelizer B (1990b) Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of
Collective Memory. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Zelizer B (1990c) Where is the author in American TV news? On the construction and presentation
of proximity, authorship and journalistic authority. Semiotica 80(1): 37.
Zelizer B (1993) Journalists as interpretive communities. Critical Studies in Mass Communication
10(3): 219–237.
Zelizer B (1995) Text, talk and journalistic quoting practices. The Communication Review 1(1): 33–51.

Zelizer B (2004) When facts, truth and reality are God-terms: On journalism’s uneasy place in cultural studies. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 1(1): 100–119.
Zelizer B (2007) On ‘having been there’: Eyewitnessing as a journalistic key word. Critical Studies in Media Communication 24(5): 408.

  • journalistic practice
  • how reporters understand the media spheres (Hallins) — do they even have a concept of it?
  • Are citizen journalists more likely to be aware of the media spheres because they are more likely to be participating in the ‘deviant’ sphere?

Published by Joanna

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

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