The emergence of citizen journalism has prompted the journalism field and scholars to readdress what constitutes journalism and who is a journalist. Citizen journalists have disrupted news-media ecosystems by challenging the veracity and representativeness of information flowing from mainstream news-media newsrooms. However, the controversy related to the desired level of citizen involvement in the news process is a historical debate that began before the citizen-journalism phenomenon. As early as the 1920s, journalist and political commentator Walter Lippman and American philosopher John Dewey debated the role of journalism in democracy, including the extent that the public should participate in the news-gathering and production processes.
This questioning of citizen involvement in news reemerged as an issue with the citizen journalism phenomenon around the late 1990s. People with no news-media organizational ties have taken advantage of the convenience and low cost of social computing technologies by publishing their own stories and content. These people are referred to as citizen journalists. Scholars have assessed the quality and credibility of citizen-journalism content, finding that citizen journalists have performed well on several standards of traditional news-content quality. Levels of quality differ dependent upon citizen journalists’ goals and motivations, such as serving the public interest, increasing self-status, or expressing their creative selves.
As it is an emerging area of study, unarticulated theoretical boundaries of citizen journalism exist. Citizen-journalism publications emphasize community over conflict, advocacy over objectivity, and interpretation over fact-based reporting. In general, citizen journalists have historically acted when existing news-media journalists were not fully meeting their community’s informational needs. Scholars, however, vary in how they label citizen journalists and how they conceptually and empirically define citizen journalism. For example, researchers have shifted their definitional focus on citizen journalists from one of active agents of democratic change to people who create a piece of news content. The mapping of the citizen-journalism literature revealed four types of citizen journalists based on their levels of editorial control and contribution type: (1) participatory, (2) para, (3) news-media watchdog, and (4) community. Taken together, these concepts describe the breadth of citizen-journalist types. For those of us interested in journalism studies, a more targeted approach in the field of citizen journalism can help us build community around scholarship, understand citizen journalists’ contributions to society and practice, and create a more a stable foundation of knowledge concerning people who create and comment on news content.
On a fundamental level, financial journalism provides information to individuals that helps them make informed economic choices, and understand how those choices impact their financial situation within the context of the broader political economy. The need for reliable information about prevailing business conditions has been recognized since the dawn of commerce, and since then financial journalism and commerce have developed together in a mostly symbiotic, albeit occasionally combative, relationship for hundreds of years. In its earliest iterations, in the 16th century, financial journalism consisted of little more than the publication of prices of commodities or other goods for sale. As trade and commerce expanded over the following centuries, so did the role and content of financial journalism. The globalization of commerce and increasing integration of the world economy since the late 20th century has increased the importance of financial journalism, while the spread of mass-market investment opportunities and defined-benefit retirement accounts in many countries has expanded the pool of individuals exposed to moves in financial markets, helping to make financial publications among the world’s most-read newspapers and websites. The focus of financial journalism is quite consistent no matter what country or language it is published in: broadly defined, financial journalism encompasses news about financial markets, macroeconomic data and trends, government economic policy, corporate news (especially earnings announcements), personal finance, and commentary about all of the above. However, the often mutualistic relationship between financial journalism and the organizations it covers has led to conflicts of interest, and to a debate over the proper role of a financial press: whether it is to merely disseminate data and information from those organizations, or to serve as a watchdog over them. For example, the bubble in internet-related shares in the 1990s was blamed partly on “boosterism” by the financial media, while many investors also blamed the financial press for failing to sound the alarm ahead of the Global Financial Crisis later in the following decade.
Mel Bunce, Martin Scott, and Kate Wright
Humanitarian journalism can be defined, very broadly, as the production of factual accounts about crises and issues that affect human welfare. This can be broken down into two broad approaches: “traditional” reporting about humanitarian crises and issues, and advocacy journalism that aims to improve humanitarian outcomes. In practice, there is overlap between the two approaches. Mainstream journalists have long helped to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian crises, as well as provide early emergency warnings and monitor the treatment of citizens. Meanwhile, aid agencies and humanitarian campaigners frequently subsidize or directly provide journalistic content.
There is a large research literature on humanitarian journalism. The most common focus of this research is the content of international reporting about humanitarian crises. These studies show that a small number of “high-profile” crises take up the vast majority of news coverage, leaving others marginalized and hidden. The quantity of coverage is not strongly correlated to the severity of a crisis or the number of people affected but, rather, its geopolitical significance and cultural proximity to the audience. Humanitarian journalism also tends to highlight international rescue efforts, fails to provide context about the causes of a crisis, and operates to erase the agency of local response teams and victims. Communication theorists have argued that this reporting prevents an empathetic and equal encounter between the audience and those affected by distant suffering. However, there are few empirical studies of the mechanisms through which news content influences audiences or policymakers. There are also very few production studies of the news organizations and journalists who produce humanitarian journalism. The research that does exist focuses heavily on news organizations based in the Global North/West.