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Not paid to play: A case study of online community participants and the effects of non-monetary motivation upon public journalism
Unformatted Document Text:  NOT PAID TO PLAY 14 interviews  with  community  columnists  and  bloggers  suggests  that,  at  least  in  this  case,  community  participants  as  a  whole  struggled  with  perceptions  of   “professionalism”  and  journalistic  standards.  It  is  seemingly  clear  that  these  community  participants  were  not  paid  journalists  and,  therefore,  may  not  be   expected  to  abide  by  the  standards  of  a  profession  of  which  they  are  not  part.  However,  newspaper  management  and  the  community  participants  seemed  to  have  different  perceptions  of  the  columnists’  role  within  the  news  organization  and  the   expectations  to  meet  journalistic  norms.     At  the  center  of  much  of  this  conflict,  it  seems,  is  the  concept  of   compensation,  financial  or  otherwise.  Study  participants  indicated  that  community   participants  were  not  paid,  but  they  did  recognize  that  they  benefited  from  a  perceived  community  status  that  came  with  a  connection  to  the  journalistic   authority  of  the  local  professional  news  organization.     Most  troubling,  the  lack  of  financial  compensation  seemed  to  influence  the   community  participants’  perceptions  of  how  they  should  create  their  work  within  a   journalistic  community.  Simply,  the  community  participants  wanted  what  they  perceived  as  prestige,  legitimacy,  and  journalistic  authority  from  writing  for  the  newspaper  and  its  website,  but  they  did  not  want  to  abide  by  journalistic  standards,   such  as  accuracy,  verification,  and  attribution.  At  the  same  time,  the  newspaper  management  tended  to  view  the  columnists  as  a  means  to  brand  the  news  outlet  as  a   local  institution  for  little  or  no  financial  cost.  However,  the  newspaper  appears  to  set  a  distance  between  the  news  outlet  and  the  community  participants  by  not  financially  compensating  them.  This  separation,  then,  seems  to  release  the   professional  journalists  from  maintaining  specific  standards  and  practices  of  the  community  participants.     Second,  we  also  found  a  disconnect  between  the  goals  of  the  community   participants  and  the  newspaper  for  their  collaboration.  The  newspaper  editor  seemed  to  argue  that  his  organization  was  attempting  to  create  a  community  forum   by  involving  citizens  to  be  a  “reflection  of  the  community.”  Community  participants,  however,  seemed  to  clearly  articulate  that  their  goals  in  writing  and  blogging  were  more  individualistic.  They  said  that  they  participated  in  the  community  journalism   project  because  of  their  personal  motivations,  such  as  recognition  and  status,  not  to  advance  some  democratic  objective.  Future  research  should  attempt  to  explore  the   extent  to  which  such  disconnects  might  be  occurring  in  other  collaborative  models,  which  may  negatively  contribute  to  the  objectives  of  citizen  participation  in  the  press  because  of  the  vested  interests  of  citizens  and/or  the  news  organizations.   This  study  also  suggests  that  the  use  of  citizens  in  the  creation  of  community   journalism  must  drive  future  research  regarding  the  normative  approach  of   understanding  of  the  role  of  community  journalism  and  the  public  sphere.  In  this  study,  we  have  tried  to  apply  the  Libertarian  and  Social  Responsibility  approaches  of  normative  theory  to  citizens  who  have,  to  some  degree,  been  accepted  into  the   journalistic  community.  In  the  case  of  this  study,  the  journalists  provided  space,  editing,  and  journalistic  authority  to  the  citizen  participants,  therefore  engaging  the  citizens  in  a  public  role  similar  to  that  of  professional  journalists.     However,  until  more  research  is  conducted  into  the  motivations  of  the  press   and  the  public  in  these  efforts,  we  are  left  only  assuming  that  the  goals  of  the  

Authors: Gutsche Jr, Robert. and Arif, Rauf.
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background image
NOT PAID TO PLAY  14 
interviews  with  community  columnists  and  bloggers  suggests  that,  at  least  in  this  
case,  community  participants  as  a  whole  struggled  with  perceptions  of  
“professionalism”  and  journalistic  standards.  It  is  seemingly  clear  that  these  
community  participants  were  not  paid  journalists  and,  therefore,  may  not  be  
expected  to  abide  by  the  standards  of  a  profession  of  which  they  are  not  part.  
However,  newspaper  management  and  the  community  participants  seemed  to  have  
different  perceptions  of  the  columnists’  role  within  the  news  organization  and  the  
expectations  to  meet  journalistic  norms.    
At  the  center  of  much  of  this  conflict,  it  seems,  is  the  concept  of  
compensation,  financial  or  otherwise.  Study  participants  indicated  that  community  
participants  were  not  paid,  but  they  did  recognize  that  they  benefited  from  a  
perceived  community  status  that  came  with  a  connection  to  the  journalistic  
authority  of  the  local  professional  news  organization.    
Most  troubling,  the  lack  of  financial  compensation  seemed  to  influence  the  
community  participants’  perceptions  of  how  they  should  create  their  work  within  a  
journalistic  community.  Simply,  the  community  participants  wanted  what  they  
perceived  as  prestige,  legitimacy,  and  journalistic  authority  from  writing  for  the  
newspaper  and  its  website,  but  they  did  not  want  to  abide  by  journalistic  standards,  
such  as  accuracy,  verification,  and  attribution.  At  the  same  time,  the  newspaper  
management  tended  to  view  the  columnists  as  a  means  to  brand  the  news  outlet  as  a  
local  institution  for  little  or  no  financial  cost.  However,  the  newspaper  appears  to  set  
a  distance  between  the  news  outlet  and  the  community  participants  by  not  
financially  compensating  them.  This  separation,  then,  seems  to  release  the  
professional  journalists  from  maintaining  specific  standards  and  practices  of  the  
community  participants.    
Second,  we  also  found  a  disconnect  between  the  goals  of  the  community  
participants  and  the  newspaper  for  their  collaboration.  The  newspaper  editor  
seemed  to  argue  that  his  organization  was  attempting  to  create  a  community  forum  
by  involving  citizens  to  be  a  “reflection  of  the  community.”  Community  participants,  
however,  seemed  to  clearly  articulate  that  their  goals  in  writing  and  blogging  were  
more  individualistic.  They  said  that  they  participated  in  the  community  journalism  
project  because  of  their  personal  motivations,  such  as  recognition  and  status,  not  to  
advance  some  democratic  objective.  Future  research  should  attempt  to  explore  the  
extent  to  which  such  disconnects  might  be  occurring  in  other  collaborative  models,  
which  may  negatively  contribute  to  the  objectives  of  citizen  participation  in  the  
press  because  of  the  vested  interests  of  citizens  and/or  the  news  organizations.  
This  study  also  suggests  that  the  use  of  citizens  in  the  creation  of  community  
journalism  must  drive  future  research  regarding  the  normative  approach  of  
understanding  of  the  role  of  community  journalism  and  the  public  sphere.  In  this  
study,  we  have  tried  to  apply  the  Libertarian  and  Social  Responsibility  approaches  
of  normative  theory  to  citizens  who  have,  to  some  degree,  been  accepted  into  the  
journalistic  community.  In  the  case  of  this  study,  the  journalists  provided  space,  
editing,  and  journalistic  authority  to  the  citizen  participants,  therefore  engaging  the  
citizens  in  a  public  role  similar  to  that  of  professional  journalists.    
However,  until  more  research  is  conducted  into  the  motivations  of  the  press  
and  the  public  in  these  efforts,  we  are  left  only  assuming  that  the  goals  of  the  


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