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Is this the future of news?
An examination of
Samoa Topix
Dr. Linda Jean Kenix
University of Canterbury
Christine Daviault
PhD Candidate, Otago University
Journalism...
• Solidified foundation of institutionalized practices of
news beats and organizational routines (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996)
• Traditional adherences to ethical norms such as balance,
fairness (Singer, 2006) and objectivity (Deuze, 2005)
• Online news content assumed to be reputable (Kenix, 2007;
Peabody, 2008) and of relevance to audience interests
...Or Journalism
• Native reporting encouraged and heightened
engagement with readers (Franklin, 2008)
• Shift away from objectivity toward transparency (Kenix, 2011)
• Growing journalism of attachment (Ruigrok, 2010)
• Little diversity in content (Redden &Witschge, 2010)
• Feedback largely non-constructive (Kenix, 2011, Zhou et. al., 2008)
Samoa
• Samoa has profound tensions in press freedoms
• Journalists must reveal sources of any official claiming
defamation & legal fees are paid by public funds
• Majority of Samoans live outside of Samoa
• Samoans and Samoan emigrants seek out alternative
Samoan news due presence of government in texts
and distanced geographical proximity to homeland
SamoaTopix
• Topix receives substantial funding from Gannet,
McClatchy & Tribune Company
• Topix has “combined the best technology with the
strongest local participation to create the best
destination for news and discussion. By giving
everyone access to the tools to talk - and an audience
to listen - Topix redefines what it means to create, edit,
share and make the news” (About Topix, 2011)
• “A leading news community…continually updated…
thousands of sources” (About Topix, 2011)
Research Questions
• R1: Do the comments on SamoaTopix illustrate the
potential towards a more pluralist and democratic debate?
• R2: Does the discussion relate to the news content in any
way (i.e. does it drive news content on SamoaTopix, repeat
news content or show no relation to news content)?
• R3:Are the news stories that SamoaTopix aggregates
dependent upon traditional approaches to journalism (i.e.
professionalism, objectivity, balance, elite sources)?
• R4:Are the news topics on SamoaTopix similar to the news
topics in the Samoa Observer, the national news of Samoa?
METHODOLOGY
• Narrative analysis of 103 SamoaTopix Forums
• Narrative fragments coalesce to create a cultural site
(Kenix, 2010) which becomes an ideological rhetorical
force (Chatman, 1990)
• Quantitative & qualitative examination of 104 Samoa
Topix news stories and 113 Samoa Observer news stories
• Sourcing, balance, objectivity, specific themes in
content
Results
• R1: Level of debate
• Possibilities:Web 2.0 everywhere (Twitter!, Facebook!)
• Realities: 55.3% social/interpersonal & 24.2% about
news
• Largely a space to voice ethnic views & ethnic
identity
• Overwhelming reliance on racial slurs
• “Story served principally as catalyst for commentators
to express previously held viewpoints on loosely
related topics using charged language in an uncensored
Results
• R2:The News and the Forum
• No evidence of any forum generating news content
• 24.2% forums started with news commentary,
remaining 75.8% of forums unrelated to news
• The more commenting, the more likely discourse
descended into ethnic baiting
• “They are as stupid as an Oakland Niglett.”
• “Bring all your gangster Poly prisoners here and
we’ll make them climb a coconut tree upside
down...and of course butt naked.”)
Results
• R3: Journalism Norms
• No journalism ethics/norms for Topix given that they
are purely aggregators of content
• Most news stories did not relate to Samoa
• Web metrics rather than content relevance
• 20% of content drawn exclusively from
samoanews.com (American Samoa)
Results
• Story Sources
• Non-Samoan entertainers most sourced in stories
• Overall 38.4% stories were balanced, 61.6% were not
• Professional divide between stories from more
developed countries & Pacific Island nations
• PI: Often single sourced transcripts with little
context
• DC: Multiple credible sources, context, background
Results
• R4: SamoaTopix & Samoa Observer
• Very little overlap in specific stories
• Topix: International - and randomly peripheral
• Tourism & Entertainment (21.1%) & Business
(11.5%)
• Observer: Local focus
• Court cases (16.8%) and government policy (8.8%)
Discussion
• Topix presents a technologically-deterministic
perspective on its strengths, however...
• Should SamoaTopix be lauded for providing tools for
debate despite their use?
• Should Topix be accountable when the tools alone do
not contribute to a climate supporting democratic
debate?
• How can aggregators of content be more meaningful?

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Linda jean

  • 1. Is this the future of news? An examination of Samoa Topix Dr. Linda Jean Kenix University of Canterbury Christine Daviault PhD Candidate, Otago University
  • 2. Journalism... • Solidified foundation of institutionalized practices of news beats and organizational routines (Shoemaker & Reese, 1996) • Traditional adherences to ethical norms such as balance, fairness (Singer, 2006) and objectivity (Deuze, 2005) • Online news content assumed to be reputable (Kenix, 2007; Peabody, 2008) and of relevance to audience interests
  • 3. ...Or Journalism • Native reporting encouraged and heightened engagement with readers (Franklin, 2008) • Shift away from objectivity toward transparency (Kenix, 2011) • Growing journalism of attachment (Ruigrok, 2010) • Little diversity in content (Redden &Witschge, 2010) • Feedback largely non-constructive (Kenix, 2011, Zhou et. al., 2008)
  • 4. Samoa • Samoa has profound tensions in press freedoms • Journalists must reveal sources of any official claiming defamation & legal fees are paid by public funds • Majority of Samoans live outside of Samoa • Samoans and Samoan emigrants seek out alternative Samoan news due presence of government in texts and distanced geographical proximity to homeland
  • 5. SamoaTopix • Topix receives substantial funding from Gannet, McClatchy & Tribune Company • Topix has “combined the best technology with the strongest local participation to create the best destination for news and discussion. By giving everyone access to the tools to talk - and an audience to listen - Topix redefines what it means to create, edit, share and make the news” (About Topix, 2011) • “A leading news community…continually updated… thousands of sources” (About Topix, 2011)
  • 6. Research Questions • R1: Do the comments on SamoaTopix illustrate the potential towards a more pluralist and democratic debate? • R2: Does the discussion relate to the news content in any way (i.e. does it drive news content on SamoaTopix, repeat news content or show no relation to news content)? • R3:Are the news stories that SamoaTopix aggregates dependent upon traditional approaches to journalism (i.e. professionalism, objectivity, balance, elite sources)? • R4:Are the news topics on SamoaTopix similar to the news topics in the Samoa Observer, the national news of Samoa?
  • 7. METHODOLOGY • Narrative analysis of 103 SamoaTopix Forums • Narrative fragments coalesce to create a cultural site (Kenix, 2010) which becomes an ideological rhetorical force (Chatman, 1990) • Quantitative & qualitative examination of 104 Samoa Topix news stories and 113 Samoa Observer news stories • Sourcing, balance, objectivity, specific themes in content
  • 8. Results • R1: Level of debate • Possibilities:Web 2.0 everywhere (Twitter!, Facebook!) • Realities: 55.3% social/interpersonal & 24.2% about news • Largely a space to voice ethnic views & ethnic identity • Overwhelming reliance on racial slurs • “Story served principally as catalyst for commentators to express previously held viewpoints on loosely related topics using charged language in an uncensored
  • 9. Results • R2:The News and the Forum • No evidence of any forum generating news content • 24.2% forums started with news commentary, remaining 75.8% of forums unrelated to news • The more commenting, the more likely discourse descended into ethnic baiting • “They are as stupid as an Oakland Niglett.” • “Bring all your gangster Poly prisoners here and we’ll make them climb a coconut tree upside down...and of course butt naked.”)
  • 10. Results • R3: Journalism Norms • No journalism ethics/norms for Topix given that they are purely aggregators of content • Most news stories did not relate to Samoa • Web metrics rather than content relevance • 20% of content drawn exclusively from samoanews.com (American Samoa)
  • 11. Results • Story Sources • Non-Samoan entertainers most sourced in stories • Overall 38.4% stories were balanced, 61.6% were not • Professional divide between stories from more developed countries & Pacific Island nations • PI: Often single sourced transcripts with little context • DC: Multiple credible sources, context, background
  • 12. Results • R4: SamoaTopix & Samoa Observer • Very little overlap in specific stories • Topix: International - and randomly peripheral • Tourism & Entertainment (21.1%) & Business (11.5%) • Observer: Local focus • Court cases (16.8%) and government policy (8.8%)
  • 13. Discussion • Topix presents a technologically-deterministic perspective on its strengths, however... • Should SamoaTopix be lauded for providing tools for debate despite their use? • Should Topix be accountable when the tools alone do not contribute to a climate supporting democratic debate? • How can aggregators of content be more meaningful?