Building Spaces for Hyperlocal Citizen Journalism

Bruns, Axel, Wilson, Jason A., & Saunders, Barry J. (2008) Building Spaces for Hyperlocal Citizen Journalism. In Association of Internet Researchers 2008 : Internet Research 9.0: Rethinking Community, Rethinking Place, October 15, 2008 – October 18, 2008, Copenhagen, Denmark.


One of the perceived Achilles heels of online citizen journalism is its perceived inability to conduct investigative and first-hand reporting. A number of projects have recently addressed this problem, with varying success: the U.S.-based Assignment Zero was described as "a highly satisfying failure" (Howe 2007), while the German appears to have been thoroughly successful in attracting a strong community of contributors, even to the point of being able to generate print versions of its content, distributed free of charge to households in selected German cities.

In Australia, citizen journalism played a prominent part in covering the federal elections held on 24 November 2007; news bloggers and public opinion Websites provided a strong counterpoint to the mainstream media coverage of the election campaign (Bruns et al., 2007)., a collaboration between researchers at Queensland University of Technology and media practitioners at the public service broadcaster SBS, the public opinion site On Line Opinion, and technology company Cisco Systems, was developed as a dedicated space for a specifically hyperlocal coverage of the election campaign in each of Australia's 150 electorates from the urban sprawls of Sydney and Brisbane to the sparsely populated remote regions of outback Australia.

YD07 provided training materials for would-be citizen journalists and encouraged them to contribute electorate profiles, interview candidates, and conduct vox-pops with citizens in their local area. The site developed a strong following especially in its home state of Queensland, and its interviewers influenced national public debate by uncovering the sometimes controversial personal views of mainstream and fringe candidates. At the same time, the success of YD07 was limited by external constraints determined by campaign timing and institutional frameworks. As part of a continuing action research cycle, lessons learnt from are going to be translated into further iterations of the project, which will cover the local government elections in the Australian state of Queensland, to be held in March 2008, and developments subsequent to these elections.

This paper will present research outcomes from the project. In particular, it will examine the roles of staff contributors and citizen journalists in attracting members, providing information, promoting discussion, and fostering community on the site: early indications from a study of interaction data on the site indicate notably different contribution patterns and effects for staff and citizen participants, which may point towards the possibility of developing more explicit pro-am collaboration models in line with the Pro-Am phenomenon outlined by Leadbeater & Miller (2004).

The paper will outline strengths and weaknesses of the Youdecide model and highlight requirements for the successful development of active citizen journalism communities. In doing so, it will also evaluate the feasibility of hyperlocal citizen journalism approaches, and their interrelationship with broader regional, state, and national journalism in both its citizen and industrial forms.

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ID Code: 15115
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: journalism, citizen journalism, hyperlocal, Australia, Youdecide2007, news, politics
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100) > Communication and Media Studies not elsewhere classified (200199)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > JOURNALISM AND PROFESSIONAL WRITING (190300) > Journalism Studies (190301)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 (The authors)
Copyright Statement: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License -
Deposited On: 13 Oct 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2013 23:29

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