Adding a bit more substance to my article outline:
From a post written on Friday but posted yesterday because for some reason WordPress didn’t publish it on Friday —
Gaining and examining authority as a citizen journalist
- There are two types of authority — one assigned to a journalist by their audience, and two, the authority a citizen journalist internalises as part of their practice.
- 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.
Journalism as providing a memory is a topic that might be useful.
“As Thomas Kuhn (1964) argued long ago, what we know has a social life that privileges certain ways of knowing. Inquiry depends on consensus building and on developing the kinds of shared paradigms that name and characterize problems and procedures in ways that are recognized by the collective.” (Journalism and memory by Barbie Zelizer, p.2)
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” Milan Kundera.
“in collective memory studies, [o]nce scholarship started to
amass and journalism was nowhere inside it, it became more difficult to find a place to include journalism down the line. And yet, the lack of consonance between how we think memory works without journalism and the evidence by which journalism engages in shaping our version of the past is troubling.” (Zelizer)
The suggestion in Zelizer’s work, is that the current media’s role in informing the readers of how current knowledge is presented — what is newsworthy (Hallin) — needs to be added to any argument of how to gain authority.
I need to read a little further to understand the exact nature of the memory/media literature. Basu does a great job explaining it in Media Amnesia and she cites a few of Zelizer’s works. There is no direct link, from what I remember, of authority and memory, however.
Citizen and independent journalism is seen not have the same prominence, to have different techniques and these question the process of making news — the need for simple narratives, the rushed writing, the reduced staff numbers, the emphasis on profit rather than investigative news and holding power to account — etc.
Ascertaining authority might benefit from an examination of the following:
- the process by which the writing is produced
- the length of time the author has been visible [see Mexican example of assessing validity of anonymous accounts]
- The importance of the information; i.e. see Mexican article – -if your life depends on knowing what’s happening and staying anonymous, then it might be easier for readers to accept one’s authority.
In local councils, however, the issues are rarely immediately dangerous in terms of being murdered, but cases of abuse (child protection) are under the auspices of the council and so they can be life-threatening.
Zelizer, B. and Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. (2014) Journalism and Memory. Palgrave Macmillan, UK.
Nygaard, L.P., and Solli, K. (2021) Strategies for writing a thesis by publication in the social sciences and humanities. Routledge.
Extract from the Times, 1905