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Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration betw. Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework

Axel Bruns. "Beyond the Pro/Am Schism: Opportunities for Collaboration between Professional and Citizen Journalists under a Produsage Framework." Paper presented at the CCi 2008 conference, Brisbane, 25-27 June 2008.

The emergence of citizen journalism, and the challenges it poses for the conventional journalism industry, have been well-documented over the past decade. Citizen journalism has been hailed as a new "Estate 4.5" (Singer 2006), acting as a watchdog for a journalism industry increasingly compromised by commercial and political agendas; it has been seen as making possible a return to a more dialogic, deliberative engagement with the news (Heikkilä & Kunelius 2002) in which a broader range of perspectives are represented and engage with one another; it has been described as shifting focus from the global and generic to the hyperlocal and specific.

At the same time, some journalism researchers, and especially many journalists themselves, have also warned that citizen journalism may further undermine professional journalistic ideals of objectivity and impartiality, leading instead to the uncontrollable dissemination of unsubstantiated rumours and the publication of highly partisan opinion pieces as 'news'. Such views hold that only production controls operated by trained professionals are able to ensure the quality of the news product; against this, supporters of citizen journalism argue that (under appropriate preconditions) a broad-based, user-led self-policing of citizen journalism processes can be just as effective. Such user-led collaboration, or produsage, has also proven to be successful in projects from open source software development to the Wikipedia, and lessons for the successful and sustainable harnessing of the collective intelligence of participating users can be translated to citizen journalism from these fields (Bruns 2008).

This paper moves beyond arguing in favour of one side or the other, and considers opportunities for combining the most effective elements of professional and citizen journalism approaches instead of perpetuating the pro/am schism. It points out that even within the collaborative frameworks of produsage, expert knowledge continues to be valued and respected, enabling professional journalists to continue to play a leading role in hybrid models (if on the basis of merit rather than merely of status); it highlights the significant contribution to breadth and depth of coverage which an embrace of citizens as participants in and leaders of a hybrid journalism project is able to make. At the same time, it also notes the necessary reconceptualisation of news from product to process which results from the exploration of hybrid produsage models.

On this basis, then, and drawing on a number of emerging examples which explore the pro-am nexus in journalistic practice, this paper sketches out potential shapes of pro-am, professional/citizen journalism collaborations within a wider produsage framework. It points to early successes and highlights key areas for further research, and explores the effect of these developments on our understanding of news.


Bruns, Axel. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang.

Heikkilä, Heikki, and Risto Kunelius. 2002. Access, dialogue, deliberation: Experimenting with three concepts of journalism criticism. The International Media and Democracy Project, 17 July, (accessed 20 Feb. 2004).

Singer, Jane B. 2006. Journalists and news bloggers: Complements, contradictions, and challenges. Uses of Blogs, eds. Axel Bruns and Joanne Jacobs. New York: Peter Lang. 23-32.

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