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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 2 theoretical  implications  of  public  journalism  upon  democracy  (Chadwick,  2006;  Papacharissi,  2002;  Perlmutter,  2008),  and  the  influence  of  those  experiments  upon   journalistic  practices  (Schudson,  2001)  and  ethics  (Singer,  2009).  As  efforts  to  engage  the  public  in  journalism  continue  to  emerge,  it  is  necessary,  however,  to  look   at  the  relationships  and  interactions  between  community  contributors  and  the  mainstream  media  outlets  that  publish  the  content.     This  study,  then,  involves  the  voices  of  both  community  participants  –   meaning,  those  who  contribute  to  media  through  blogs,  story  comments,  opinion  columns  and  other  content  for  which  they  are  not  paid  –  and  a  representative  of  the  news  outlet  that  publishes  community  content.  Data  from  depth  interviews  with  six   community  participants  and  the  opinion  page  editor  at  a  daily,  Midwestern  U.S.  newspaper 1  during  the  summer  of  2010  may  shed  light  on  the  motivation  behind   participatory  work.     By  exploring  this  newspaper’s  effort  to  create  space  for  community   participants  through  blogging,  we  identify  a  number  of  challenges  that  both  the   participants  and  the  newspaper  faced,  including  forming  a  mutual  understanding  of  the  participants’  motives  and  ethics  and  the  role  of  citizens.  These  findings  can  contribute  to  the  larger  international  emergence  of  collaborative  projects  between   citizens  and  professional  journalists.   Such  understandings  that  emerge,  even  if  limited  to  a  single  case,  provide  a   rich  perspective  on  the  possible  challenges  for  the  future  of  participatory  approaches  to  newswork.  Specifically  for  journalists,  this  exploration  can  reveal  practical  and  ethical  elements  of  newswork  in  the  expanding  journalistic   community.  Furthermore,  it  is  important  to  note  the  motives  and  the  meanings  of  the  work  from  the  perspective  of  the  community  members.   This  paper  draws  on  literature  regarding  normative  journalistic  values  and   emerging  trends  of  participatory  newswork,  which  is  followed  by  background  information  on  the  case  study  and  an  analysis  of  the  interviews  with  participants.   The  paper  ends  with  conclusions  and  recommendations  for  future  research.         Conceptual  Framework    Because  this  paper  is  primarily  focused  on  the  role  of  non-­‐paid  community   participants  who  publish  blogs  on  a  local  newspaper  website,  the  normative  approach  to  understanding  professional  newswork  (Christians,  Glasser,  McQuail,  Nordenstreng,  &  White,  2009)  provides  a  strong  theoretical  foundation  for  this   examination.  Traditionally,  the  normative  approach  discusses  the  ideal  functions  of  the  press  and  what  the  press  should  do  for  the  sake  of  a  good  society,  one  that   functions  as  a  democracy  with  freedoms  of  expression  (Benson,  2008).     Indeed,  the  normative  lens  helps  one  explore  the  issues  related  to  civic   engagement  in  the  media,  freedom  of  expression,  journalism  ethics,  social   responsibility,  and  public  journalism.  Though  the  majority  of  participants  for  this                                                                                                                   1 The name of the newspaper will be identified upon publication in order to meet the standards of the blind peer review process.

Authors: Gutsche Jr, Robert. and Arif, Rauf.
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background image
NOT PAID TO PLAY  2 
theoretical  implications  of  public  journalism  upon  democracy  (Chadwick,  2006;  
Papacharissi,  2002;  Perlmutter,  2008),  and  the  influence  of  those  experiments  upon  
journalistic  practices  (Schudson,  2001)  and  ethics  (Singer,  2009).  As  efforts  to  
engage  the  public  in  journalism  continue  to  emerge,  it  is  necessary,  however,  to  look  
at  the  relationships  and  interactions  between  community  contributors  and  the  
mainstream  media  outlets  that  publish  the  content.    
This  study,  then,  involves  the  voices  of  both  community  participants  –  
meaning,  those  who  contribute  to  media  through  blogs,  story  comments,  opinion  
columns  and  other  content  for  which  they  are  not  paid  –  and  a  representative  of  the  
news  outlet  that  publishes  community  content.  Data  from  depth  interviews  with  six  
community  participants  and  the  opinion  page  editor  at  a  daily,  Midwestern  U.S.  
newspaper
1
 during  the  summer  of  2010  may  shed  light  on  the  motivation  behind  
participatory  work.    
By  exploring  this  newspaper’s  effort  to  create  space  for  community  
participants  through  blogging,  we  identify  a  number  of  challenges  that  both  the  
participants  and  the  newspaper  faced,  including  forming  a  mutual  understanding  of  
the  participants’  motives  and  ethics  and  the  role  of  citizens.  These  findings  can  
contribute  to  the  larger  international  emergence  of  collaborative  projects  between  
citizens  and  professional  journalists.  
Such  understandings  that  emerge,  even  if  limited  to  a  single  case,  provide  a  
rich  perspective  on  the  possible  challenges  for  the  future  of  participatory  
approaches  to  newswork.  Specifically  for  journalists,  this  exploration  can  reveal  
practical  and  ethical  elements  of  newswork  in  the  expanding  journalistic  
community.  Furthermore,  it  is  important  to  note  the  motives  and  the  meanings  of  
the  work  from  the  perspective  of  the  community  members.  
This  paper  draws  on  literature  regarding  normative  journalistic  values  and  
emerging  trends  of  participatory  newswork,  which  is  followed  by  background  
information  on  the  case  study  and  an  analysis  of  the  interviews  with  participants.  
The  paper  ends  with  conclusions  and  recommendations  for  future  research.    
   
Conceptual  Framework  
 
Because  this  paper  is  primarily  focused  on  the  role  of  non-­‐paid  community  
participants  who  publish  blogs  on  a  local  newspaper  website,  the  normative  
approach  to  understanding  professional  newswork  (Christians,  Glasser,  McQuail,  
Nordenstreng,  &  White,  2009)  provides  a  strong  theoretical  foundation  for  this  
examination.  Traditionally,  the  normative  approach  discusses  the  ideal  functions  of  
the  press  and  what  the  press  should  do  for  the  sake  of  a  good  society,  one  that  
functions  as  a  democracy  with  freedoms  of  expression  (Benson,  2008).    
Indeed,  the  normative  lens  helps  one  explore  the  issues  related  to  civic  
engagement  in  the  media,  freedom  of  expression,  journalism  ethics,  social  
responsibility,  and  public  journalism.  Though  the  majority  of  participants  for  this  
                                                                                                               
1
 The name of the newspaper will be identified upon publication in order to meet the 
standards of the blind peer review process. 


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