Internews Center for Innovation & Learning

Internews Center for Innovation & Learning
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Research explores the use of citizen journalism by mainstream media during the Arab Spring

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In recent years new media has enabled the rise of citizen journalism, creating an alternative source of information for the public and complicating the ethical code for traditional media as they incorporate social media sources into their own reporting. Citizen journalists have played an active role in the Arab revolutions by collecting, curating and disseminating first-hand accounts of revolutionary activity, often in areas where mainstream media does not have access.

This involvement has called into question the objectivity, veracity and accuracy of mainstream media reports but also provided unprecedented coverage of revolutionary events. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) team is conducting an experimental research project that seeks to examine the verification policies and processes of three mainstream international media outlets and their adherence to these policies based on case studies during the Arab Spring. 

Syria has been chosen for the case study due to the international media's extensive coverage of the Arab revolutions, the ongoing nature of the uprising, the historic scarcity of international correspondents and stringers in the country due to the closed nature of the society, and the government-imposed media blackout during the revolution. The case study will explore the impact of the media blackout on mainstream media's reliance on citizen journalism and its process of information verification.

Some of the questions that the research will answer are: what are the official verification policies of mainstream media outlets, how have these policies evolved over the last several years, how aware are foreign desk editors of these policies and how stringently do they adhere to them, what does content analysis tell us about the adherence to these policies and how to mainstream media outlets address cases of inaccurate reporting based on false citizen journalism reports? 

Results of this research will inform future interventions into the mainstream and citizen media sector and contribute to best practices for promoting the distribution of objective news and information.