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Online citizen criticism and media accountability: A comparative study of Kenya and South Africa
(The Ander Centre for Research on News and Opinion in the Digital Era (NODE))ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4774-4643
2016 (English)In: Communicating with Power: 66th Annual International Communication Association Conference, Japan, Fukuoka, June 9-13, 2016, 2016Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The primary research question for this project is: What are the implications of the growing online citizen criticism of journalistic performance on media accountability as understood in journalism studies today?Recent studies show that the influence of traditional media regulatory frameworks, such as the press councils, is increasingly waning and their effectiveness in regulation of journalism performance is being questioned (see Fengler et al 2014; Leveson 2012). In fact, MediaAcT1 (Media Accountability and Transparency) research, recommend that citizens who criticise the traditional media should be integrated into media accountability processes (Fengler et al). Indeed, citizens on social media and blogs often elicit interesting debates on journalistic performance by pointing out errors in traditional media content or even unethical practices of journalists. It is the reason the discourse on media accountability studies today focuses on the question whether citizens could become effective ‘watchers of the watchdog’ through legitimate criticism of the journalism profession. Even so, although journalists seem to be aware and keep track of media criticism online (Pole & Rehkopf 2012; Joseph 2011), there is still little understanding on whether issues raised by citizens are legitimate and pertinent to the journalism practice. But even with the exploratory work of MediaAcT—that expanded Hallin and Mancini's (2004) conception of media systems—there are still few studies that have examined the viability of citizen criticism online as a potential media accountability mechanism as well as its impact on journalism performance. The specific question whether media criticism has a transformative value on journalism practice is still widely unresearched, especially in journalistic cultures beyond the connected West yet there are claims that “the effects are already visible” in news media (Powell & Jempson 2014, 126). This project therefore will examine the influence of citizen criticism online on journalism performance. The research will focus on newspaper journalists as well as critical content on blogs and social media in order to evaluate media criticism as a potential media accountability mechanism in Kenya and South Africa. The conceptual framework that lays a basis for this study is participatory media accountability (as conceptualised in the seminal work of Bertrand, 2000) and media criticism (see for example Carey 1974; Marzolf 1991; Wyatt 2007). This methodological focus for this comparative study will be based on mixed methods. The project will employ a content analysis of media-critical content on blogs and Twitter whose criticism is focused on the mainstream newspapers in Kenya and South Africa. The outcome from the content analysis will be the basis for semi-structured interviews with 30 journalists in each of the two countries.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Blogs, citizen participation, journalism practice, Kenya, media accountability, media criticism, social media, South Africa
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-44433OAI: diva2:947236
ICA Pre-conference. June 9, 2016, At Fukuoka, Japan
Available from: 2016-07-07 Created: 2016-07-07 Last updated: 2016-09-27Bibliographically approved

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Cheruiyot, David
Media and Communications

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