I am aiming for a thesis by publication so my writing is meant to contribute to actually getting something published. 30 minutes a day for five days a week, minimum.
The topic that initially stands out the most for me at the moment is the authority of citizen journalists.
Some thoughts on structuring this argument.
There are two sides to the coin of authority in citizen journalism — there is the way the audience and readers decide what is authoritative news, and enough so it can be believed and acted upon (in my topic, in reference to local political participation).
There is also the citizen journalist’s perspective of feeling they have enough authority to not only take on a public voice but also to cover topics that the ‘sphere of consensus’ and ‘legitimate controversy’ won’t touch.
I have two case studies for this topic and I might just stick to one of them. In July 2019, I wrote about the mayor’s faith advisor who was an evangelist Christian and linked the mayor to types of Christianity that thought getting evangelical Christians into politics is the best way to Transform Cities. No ‘consensus’ local media covered the topic in full. Bristol247 news editor did write about it in passing when the mayor was elected.
During the mayor’s reelection campaign, however, Rees told a congregation at Christ church Clifton, that the topic of his links to evangelicals had been discussed in his office when it came up on social media and he was told to tone it all down. As he continued to say, while accepting the story was true and had merit, he would continue to pursue these links because the church brought money.
So the arguments based on the literature are as follows:
- From an audience perspective:
- News is divided into three spheres of what constitutes writing; There’s the sphere of consensus, the sphere of legitimate controversy, and the sphere of deviant writing (Hallin). The deviant sphere is occupied, “according to Hallin (1986: 117), by ‘those political actors and views which journalists and the political mainstream of the society reject as unworthy of being heard.’ The other two spheres are basically the book ends for how far you can go on a topic.
- You can mention the mayor is Christian but you can’t discuss his faith advisor who is an alumni of a church that thinks you can heal the sick, raise the dead or such the souls from graves. These don’t come up in the pages of the media.
- So how do you gain authority as a citizen journalist?
- Practices geared towards validating information can include:
- Practices consistent with what are considered to be best journalistic practices; e.g. two independent sources, primary material, evidenced material, public evidence;
- Validation from the political parties being discussed. Do they acknowledge the fact, do they deny it? accept it? etc.
- Having past work published in national and local papers might provide validity.
From the citizen journalist’s perspective, what gives them the sense of being the right and valid person for taking on this public persona? How does that transition work in the face of silence from public officials and at times disbelief and criticism from the audience?
For the faith advisor story, everything I wrote could be found publicly and was clearly evidenced in FOIs and public documents.
For my Housing and Monastery 2.0 story. Everything I used was in the public domain. The video I quoted was in the piece. The information was clearly visible and available and yet there were people who perhaps did not want to bother reading it or watching it, who joined in with criticism.
What might be necessary in these stories is trying to find ways to make them relevant to public processes.
One story that has been covered in the media about the government’s handling of covid is where do key contracts go — with no appropriate procurement — and who gets appointed to key roles — without proper recruitment? These same issues happen in Bristol but are not covered.