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This study seeks to understand how community newspaper editors negotiate the professional complexities posed by citizen journalism—a phenomenon that, even in the abstract, would appear to undermine their gatekeeping control over content. Through interviews with 29 newspaper editors in Texas, we find that some editors either favor or disfavor the use of citizen journalism primarily on philosophical grounds, while others favor or disfavor its use mainly on practical grounds. This paper presents a mapping of these philosophical-versus-practical concerns as a model for visualizing the conflicting impulses at the heart of a larger professional debate over the place and purpose of user-generated content in the news production process. Moreover, these findings are viewed in light of gatekeeping, which, we argue, offers a welcome point of entry for the study of participatory media work as it evolves at news organizations large and small alike. In contributing to a growing body of literature on user-generated content in news contexts, this study points to the need for better understanding the causes and consequences of journalism's hyperlocal turn, as digitization enables newswork to serve increasingly niche geographic and virtual communities.
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Keywords: authority; community; gatekeeping; participatory journalism; professionalism; user-generated content

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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