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Citizen involvement in emergency reporting: A study on witnessing and citizen journalism

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This article reports findings from two studies regarding the role citizen reporting plays in emergencies. Findings from first study, a content analysis of citizen reporting about the Haiti Earthquake, Gezi Park Protests (Istanbul), Xynthia Storm (Europe) and Boston Bombings, indicates that citizen reporters were predominantly engaging in reporting of straight news. Citizen reporters were more likely to report their own observations than reporting or summarizing information they gathered from mainstream news sources. Relatedly, we found that citizen reporters were more likely to give voice to alternative sources of information, like bystanders or witnesses of incidents, than sources, such as government representatives. However, we also found that use of alternative sources does not necessarily translate to providing viewpoints that may contextualize the events. Namely, we found that episodic frames, rather than thematic frames, were likely to be utilized by citizen reporters. The second study, online interviews with citizen reporters whose coverage was content-analysed in the first study, found that a sense of editorial independence and disenchantment with the mainstream media’s coverage of the incidents were the main sources of motivation for citizen reporters. Results also indicate that citizen reporters tend to adopt a ‘publish, then filter’ approach to reporting and fact-checking. Implications for information verification issues are discussed.
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Keywords: citizen journalism; content analysis; crisis; emergency; framing; witnessing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: KoƧ University

Publication date: 01 July 2015

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