Using citizens for community journalism : findings from a hyperlocal media project
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
, p. 588-603
University of Antwerp
Hyperlocal journalism is thriving. This article describes the case of a Belgian regional newspaper experimenting with citizen journalism and user-generated content (UGC) for hyperlocal news coverage. For each municipality of the region, an online news page has been created where all citizen contributions are published side by side with professional stories on local community news and events. The fact that the UGC is not separated from the professional articles makes it an interesting case to examine commonalities and differences between both types of community reporting. The findings, based on a content analysis of 474 news items, suggest that the newspaper seems to use citizen volunteers primarily as a means to outsource the soft, good and small news coverage of local community life, while preserving the hard and bad news provision as the exclusive domain of professional journalists. Further, the studys findings support previous research indicating that (1) local community journalism is characterised by a mix of crime reporting and news coverage of fires and accidents, on the one hand, and positive humaninterest stories about social club activities, cultural events, health and sports, and school life, on the other; and that (2) citizen journalists tend to rely heavily on first-hand witnessing and personal experience due to a general lack of access to official sources of information.