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Tightening up the literature review and my thoughts

sitting on the bench in autumn square (Uma painting)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I want to say that I’m still going strong. I’ve nearly finished my first article, which I intend to submit to a journal.

I have got to such a stage of writing and research that I filled out a research proposal form for PhD at a university yesterday.

I don’t think I want to go to a university but I wanted to see if I could make sense of my research and provide a succinct literature review for my topic.

The field on the form suggested a maximum of only 750 words so I had to be very selective. I also had to make sure all my references were correct, and I filled in gaps I had previously missed — such as local political participation.

All in all, it was a great experience.

I’m posting the 750 word literature review plus references below.

PhD Title: What is the effect of social media on local political participation and knowledge, compared to local and national mainstream media?

What is journalism?

The idealised version of journalism, “how the profession makes sense of itself” (Deuze, 2005) is one where newspapers operate independently from private and political interests, and try to hold power to account (Palmer, Toff, and Nielsen, 2020). It’s a self-serving view of journalism, and readers who see their own problems failing to appear in the local press may start to doubt it.

Cutbacks in local newspapers with centralisation of local staff make it harder for the media to do their jobs. It leads to 1) local news deserts where local newspapers don’t exist and also 2) content deserts where newspapers don’t cover what is important to readers (Kiriya, 2020).

When the local press gets too close to the people in power then citizen journalism covers local news in ways that the local media, seemingly cannot, with community-driven or hyperlocal journalism that emerge due to the “public’s dissatisfaction with legacy media” (Metzgar, Kurpius, and Rowley 2011, 782).

Citizen journalism

Citizen journalism has been growing with the spread of digital technology and social media, helped by the reduced costs of publishing digitally (Miller, 2019). It’s conceptualized by scholars in varying ways such as the industry-preferred “user-generated content”, but also as “citizen witnessing” (Allan 2013), “audience material” (Wardle and Williams 2010), “networked journalism” (Beckett and Mansell 2008), “process journalism” (Jarvis 2009), “participatory journalism” (Singer et al. 2011), “alternative journalism” (Atton and Hamilton 2008), “liquid journalism” (Deuze 2008) and “ambient journalism” (Hermida 2010; cited in Luce and Jackson, 2017).

But there are two main obstacles to the impact that it can have: 1) worry about adopting a public voice in terms of the ramifications it could have to them personally (Luce, Jackson, 2017); and 2) trust from the audience, leading to authority as journalists.

Citizen journalists may have access to the public sphere, but they “do not have the power of news organizations behind them, nor can they claim the authority of membership in a socially recognized interpretative community” (Luce, Jackson, 2017; Bock 2011, 2). They are ‘untrained’ journalists (Mutsvairo, Salgado 2020) without degrees and often seen as ‘ad hoc’ (Allan 2013).

Citizen journalism has 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). Representation in the media matters (Williams, 2019)

Gaining authority and trust, and gatekeeping

Audiences might struggle to see citizen journalists as having legitimacy when not attached to established media. Authority can be borrowed by responding to the agenda that mainstream media covers (Cushion, McDowell-Naylor & Thomas 2021) but pursuing one’s own agenda, means you can’t rely on that ‘authority’.

The media’s authority relies on the norms of what news values can be reported (Hartley 1982; Shoemaker & Cohen 2006). When you report as a dissident journalist (Hartley, 1982), your route to authority is different.

Similar to how the professionalisation of the radical press was connected to the “subordination of the press to the social order” (Curran and Seaton 7th ed) and to the elimination of that radical press in the mid-1830s, professionalisation is also a way of gatekeeping who enters the profession. They say this far and no further. The axiom then becomes: news is what is printed by the media (Hartley 1982).

The media act as gatekeepers (White, 1950; Gieber, 1956; Breed, 1955; Galtung and Ruge, 1965; Vos, 2015); and, as Vos (2015) writes, the lifting of restrictions on space and printing costs “has not led to the termination of gatekeeping” (p.11).

Journalism as an institution

Journalists describe themselves in similar terms across mediums and countries as well (Sparrow, 1999; and Cook, 1998) because journalism can be seen as an institution: “humanly devised constraints” that “create order and reduce uncertainty” (North 1991). They “influence behavior by providing the cognitive scripts, categories and models that are indispensable for action” (Hall & Taylor, 1996, p. 948; as cited in Hanitzch 2007).

Much of the learning happens while on the job (SBB, 2007). As Deuze (2006) described it, “the status quo in the industry is the ideal one, hence newcomers only need to internalise what their senior peers already do” (p.21) (Hallen and Mancini, 2004; Ryfe, 2006).

The rise of citizen journalism represents an ongoing struggle over this type of “discursive authority” (Hanitzsch & T. P. Vos, 2017, p.16).

Using case studies and an ethnographic approach, I look at how social capital (Coleman, 1990; Paxton, 2002; Portes, 1998; Mansbridge, 1999) works in building up trust and authority through Twitter networks and social media.


Allan, Stuart. 2013. Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis. Cambridge: Polity.

Atton, Chris and James F. Hamilton. 2008. Alternative Journalism. London: SAGE.

Beckett, C. and Mansell, R. (2008) Crossing Boundaries: New Media and Networked Journalism

Bock, Mary. 2011. “Citizen Video Journalists and Authority in Narrative: Reviving the Role of the Witness.” Journalism 13 (5): 1–15.

Breed, W. (1955). Social control in the newsroom: A functional analysis. Social Forces, 33(4), 326–335

Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Harvard University Press

Cook, T. E. 1998. Governing with the news, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cushion, S., McDowell-Naylor, D. & Thomas, R. (2021) Why National Media Systems Matter: A Longitudinal Analysis of How UK Left-Wing and Right-Wing Alternative Media Critique Mainstream Media (2015–2018) Pages 633-652 | Published online: 15 Mar 2021

Davies, R. (2014) Civic Crowdfunding: Participatory Communities, Entrepreneurs and the Political Economy of Place.

Deuze, Mark. 2008. “The Changing Context of News Work: Liquid Journalism for a Monitorial Citizenry.” International Journal of Communication 2: 848–865

Gabriel, Deborah. 2016. “Blogging while Black, British and Female: A Critical Study on Discursive Activism.” Information, Communication and Society.

Galtung, J. and Ruge, M. (1965) The Structure of Foreign News.

Gieber, W. (1964). News is what newspapermen make it. In L. A. Dexter & D. M. White (Eds.), People, society, and mass communication (pp. 173–182). New York, NY: Macmillan (Original work published 1956).

Hallen, D., and Mancini, P (2004) Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Hanitzsch, T. (2007). “Deconstructing Journalism Culture: Toward a Universal Theory.” Communication Theory 17 (2007): 367–385. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00303.x 

Hanitzsch, T. & Vos, T. P. (2017) Journalistic Roles and the Struggle Over Institutional Identity: The Discursive Constitution of Journalism. Communication Theory

Hartley, J. (1982) Understanding News.

Hermida, A. (2010) Twittering the news: The emergence of ambient journalism. Journalism Practice 4 (3), 297-308

Ilya Kiriya (2020) “Central And Local Media In Russia: Between central control and local initiatives” in The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism, edited by Agnes Gulyas and David Baines.

Jarvis, Jeff. 2009. “Product v. Process Journalism: The Myth of Perfection v. Beta Culture.” BuzzMachine Blog, June 7 [

Luce, Ann., Jackson, Daniel. & Thorsen, Einar (2017) Citizen Journalism at The Margins,  Journalism Practice, Volume 11, 2017 – Issue 2-3 Published Online: 16 Sep 2016

Mansbridge, J. (1999). Altruistic trust. In M. E. Warren (Ed.), Democracy and Trust (pp. 290–309). Cambridge University Press cited in Patulny, R. V., & Lind Haase Svendsen, G. (2007). Exploring the social capital grid: bonding, bridging, qualitative, quantitative. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 27(1/2), 32–51. 

Mutsvairo, B. and Salgado, S. (2020) Is citizen journalism dead? An examination of recent developments in the field. Journalism. Pp.1–18 November 2, 2020.

Paxton, P. (2002). Social Capital and Democracy: An Interdependent Relationship. American Sociological Review, 67(2), 254–277

Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 1–25

Ryfe, D. (2006) `The Nature of News Rules’, Political Communication 23: 1-12.

Metzgar, Emily T.,  Kurpius, David D., Rowley, Karen M. (2011) Defining hyperlocal media: Proposing a framework for discussion

Miller, S. (2019) “Citizen Journalism”. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Oxford University Press USA. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.786

Singer, J. B., Hermida, A., Domingo, D., Heinonen, A., Paulussen, S., Quandt, T., … Vujnovic, M. (2011). Participatory journalism: Guarding open gates at online newspapers. Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell.

Sparrow, B. H. 1999. Uncertain guardians: The news media as a political institution, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Valle, F. S., Thorsen, E., & Allan, S. (2014). Getting into the Mainstream: The Digital/Media Strategies of a Feminist Coalition in Puerto Rico. Citizen Journalism: Global Perspectives Volume, 2, 211-266.

Vos, T. P. (2015). Revisiting gatekeeping theory during a time of transition. In T. P. Vos & F. Heinderyckx (Eds.), Gatekeeping in transition (pp. 3–24). New York, NY: Routledge.

Wardle, C., Williams, A. (2010) Beyond user-generated content: a production study examining the ways in which UGC is used at the BBC

White, D. M. (1950). The “gate keeper”: A case study in the selection of news. Journalism Quarterly, 27, 383–390.

Williams, M.S. (Ed) (2019) Jane Mansbridge: Participation, Deliberation, Legitimate Coercion.


Published by Joanna

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

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