Joining Forces: An Examination of User-Generated Content in Two Dutch Newspaper

Joining Forces: An Examination of User-Generated Content in Two Dutch Newspaper

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Joining forces: an examination of user-generated content in two Dutch newspapers

Theoretical Framework

The term ‘user-generated content’ or ‘UGC’ refers to content that has been produced by non-professionals – in this case by non-journalists. This content can be of all kinds: text-based, visual or audiovisual, or a combination of those three. The key point is that it is produced by ordinary people, who do not work for the organisation that receives their contributions. That is the definition which needs to be kept in mind throughout this paper. Moreover, the words ‘readers’, ‘users’, and ‘citizens’, will all refer to those people who can not be called merely ‘consumers’ anymore. In Gillmor’s (2006) words, they are the ‘former audience’.1 Within the broader, overarching term ‘user-generated content’, one can find a lot of names that refer to the type of journalism amateurs create, such as ‘grassroot’, ‘citizen’, and ‘participatory’ journalism. These names are used in previous research papers on this topic, but their exact definitions are not of major importance for this particular one, and thus will not be given here.
The amount of previous research on the integration of UGC in professional journalistic practices, is not too big, especially there where adoption of it by traditional print media is concerned. Research thusfar has mainly focused on online initiatives. Örnebring (2008), for example, has analysed what type of content citizens generally produce – which turned out to be predominantly entertaining and personal content. Stories created by users were popular culture-oriented and private – meaning they discussed personal experiences rather than public issues. Furthermore, the study has revealed that the practice of a...

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...more context to them, making them more comprehensible. The study revealed that the citizens too are somewhat hesitant towards UGC. The most astonishing finding was that 40% of all participants regarded UGC as not very important or not important at all. Note that the people that filled in the surveys were all citizens of Sweden, thus the results might not be valid for other folks.5
From the information above we can conclude that UGC corrently primarily exists of pesonal comments upon already published news items, and that it is quite difficult for journalists to integrate it properly into their routines. Thus, the question that we need to ask ourselves is: is it really worth it? I will investigate this by the means of a content analysis. Doing so, I aim to contribute to the existing debate about whether UGC is truly useful for professional journalism, or not.

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