Recently, news organizations have actively been requesting and endorsing private citizens’ contributions to the news production through eyewitness images so as to circulate up-to-minute information and draw more audience attention to the news. Despite anecdotal evidence of growing numbers of citizen-eyewitness images in the news, there has been little systematic research on the extent of using citizen-eyewitness images by news organizations and the impact of incorporating citizen-eyewitness images into news content. In order to fill this gap in the research on citizen-eyewitness images, this study aims to examine: (1) the extent to which U.S. newspaper organizations incorporate images captured by private citizens into their news articles, and (2) the effects of incorporating citizen-eyewitness images in the news on audience trust in the news organization and audience engagement with the news. To achieve the goals, this study first conducted a machine-coded content analysis of news images published by 71 U.S. newspaper organizations to calculate the percentage of citizen-eyewitness images out of all news images with identifiable and classifiable sources (Study 1). This study then collected and analyzed user behavioral data on Twitter to compute a proxy measure representing trust in the news organizations using the Trust Scores in Social Media (TSM) algorithm and audience engagement with news (Study 2). The effects of the extent to which a news organization uses citizen-eyewitness images on audience trust in the news organization and audience engagement with news articles published by it were tested. The results showed that U.S. newspapers tended to incorporate a rather small number of citizen-eyewitness images in their news reports, and there were some variations in the degree of using citizen-eyewitness images in news reports among different groups of news organizations. In addition, the findings demonstrated that the extent to which a news organization incorporated citizen-eyewitness images in its news articles was positively related to the level of audience engagement with its news posted on Twitter. In contrast, there was no significant effect of incorporating images captured by private citizens into the news on audience trust in the news organization. This study contributes to advancing the participatory journalism research by providing systematic data depicting the current state of the newsroom practice using citizen-eyewitness images in the U.S. and examining the effects of citizen-eyewitness images in the news on audience trust in news organizations and engagement with news. Additionally, this study offers useful practical implications for news organizations as they develop strategies to deal with audience’s participation in the news production.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2019. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Jisu Huh. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 136 pages.
Effects of Incorporating Citizen-Eyewitness Images into the News on Audience Trust in News Organizations and News Engagement.
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