The Right to Offend?

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Scene of the Attack on Charlie Hebdo

Two Muslim brothers walked into the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015. Equipped with assault rifles, they massacred 12 people while injuring several others before dying in a shootout with police. A branch of Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, justifying the attacks for Charlie Hebdo’s articles mocking Islam and Mohammed, the founding prophet of the religion. As France mourned, an international debate raged on free speech and antireligious publications. A year later, heated discussion continues among both policymakers and journalists on what should and should not be said.

 

The Debate on Freedom of Expression

It’s paramount to understand the context of the leading voices in the debate over freedom of expression. Despite objectionable content, Charlie Hebdo was entirely within French law and protected by Article 10 of France’s “Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 26 August 1789,” which states, “No one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order.”

Admonishing supporters of open expression, Dr. Bart Cammaerts writes in his article, “Charlie Hebdo and the Other Within,” that the freedom of expression cannot be left unchecked, “this freedom comes with responsibilities and as far as I’m concerned this freedom is not necessarily a primary right in all circumstance, it has to be balanced out with other rights and protections, for example the right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be racially abused.”

There is, however, a third major voice in the debate of free speech. For the religious, the satire of Charlie Hebdo could be more than insults. It could be blasphemy. John Tate explains in his article, “Toleration, Skepticism, and Blasphemy: John Locke, Jonas Proast, and Charlie Hebdo,” how satirizing religion can be viewed as more than a simple insult. Tate writes, “Religious belief, when deeply held, is likely to define the core identity of a person, and so demands that such individuals tolerate that which is at odds with such belief are likely to produce some resistance. This is particularly the case with ‘blasphemy,’ which in advancing images, statements, or opinions profoundly at odds with particular religious beliefs, sometimes in a derisive or satirical way, impugns all that religious believers hold dear.” For some, an insult on their faith is perceived as a direct assault on them. While this is an invalid reason to support or commit violence, it’s conceivable that blasphemy can be used by the extremists to justify their actions.

Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie

 

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Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie

The attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo rattled the world, both in its brutality and its blatant assault on the freedom of expression. In the wake of the attack, many took to social media, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), demonstrating solidarity with both France, the newspaper, and the belief of freedom of speech. However, while #JeSuisCharlie was adopted by many, another hashtag gained prominence, #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (I am not Charlie). Fabio Giglietto and Yenn Lee studied the evolution and use of the hashtag in their article, “To Be or Not to Be Charlie”. The authors shared, “Users of the said hashtag showed resistance to the mainstream framing of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as the universal value of freedom of expression being threatened by religious intolerance and violence.” Just hours after the tragedy, a movement began that condemned the attacks but similarly rejected the rhetoric used by Charlie Hebdo that initially put them in the crosshairs of terrorists.

 

Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie : I am not Charlie

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, NY Times journalist David Brook penned the op-ed, “I am not Charlie Hebdo.” He begins by commenting on the hypocrisy of America to extol the brave comments of the French publications and similar voices while simultaneously trying to silence and punish those same opinions within our own borders. Brook argues that most of us cannot claim to be Charlie as we would not use such inflammatory language. However, the satirist has not only the right to speak but is even necessary at times. Despite this occasional need to challenge thoughts, the author considers such speech as juvenile and often harming more than helping. Brook writes, “Healthy societies, in other words,don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.”

In his article, Brook supports the freedom of expression and places society as the gatekeeper. This approach certainly stays within the letter of the law. In fact, it proposes no legal change, whatsoever. What it does ask is for individuals to aspire to more mature dialogues and reject those voices that are pointlessly inflammatory. Legal action would still need to be taken in cases of clear misdemeanors and felonies. However, the idea of society policing conversation raises the tide for all boats. The outspoken gain too much response but like a child’s tantrum, they will quiet down when they don’t receive the attention they crave.

Christian Satire?

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The Biblical perspective encourages talk that similarly generates productive communication, including satire. Looking at Jesus Christ, the perfect model for Christians, he did not shy away from trading barbs with the corrupt. In Matthew 23, Jesus called the Pharisees, “hypocrites,” a “brood of vipers,” and accused them of murder. Throughout the Gospels, Christ can be seen using insults, parables, and dashes of humor to attack the religious leaders.  This was not said to tear them down but to say, “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Stubbornly corrupt, Christ’s words were meant to convict.

Brook’s article was not a Christian commentary but was mostly in step with the Biblical worldview. The article promotes respect and encourages beneficial dialogue. Where Scripture would differ would be in condoning efforts like Charlie Hebdo. While Brook’s may find it occasionally necessary, Charlie Hebdo went beyond satire and was borderline bigotry. Their efforts to challenge Islamic radicals was less targeted and more a scorched earth policy. The magazine often was bolstering their like-minded audience than trying to make a genuine effort to rattle muslims into reformation.  

The attacks on Charlie Hebdo were heinous. Silencing voices through censorship or violence is never the answer. However, individuals must be thicker-skinned while simultaneously rejecting destructive talk. Christians need to prayerfully consider the words they share, seeking to build others up while being ready to speak boldly, when necessary. The freedom of speech is best expressed through love and tolerance.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” 

Hebrews 12:14

 

Don’t worry about Zika virus…yet.

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The Zika virus, a mosquito born illness, has grabbed headlines as it causes panic among expectant mothers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began emergency actions in late January in response to outbreaks of Zika in Central and South America. The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects in the babies of pregnant women. Only a few weeks after the initial actions, the CDC would elevate their emergency teams to their highest level of response. With no cure or vaccine, the Zika virus has many questioning if they are safe and how to protect themselves.

Dr. Kristy Bradley serves as the Oklahoma Department of Health’s State Epidemiologist. Beyond local outbreak prevention efforts, Bradley also works in national groups to develop a surveillance plan for the US in response to the Zika virus. She shares how it has already made its way to the States, “The CDC is reporting a total of 84 cases of the Zika virus disease in the United States but all 84 are infections that have been acquired overseas.”

Explore an interactive map of the Zika virus cases in the US here.

The CDC breaks the spread of the Zika virus into two broad categories: travel-acquired and locally transmitted. All of the Zika virus cases in the US have been considered travel-acquired, which occurs when the patient was infected while traveling outside the US in an area with the Zika-carrying mosquitos and returns to the US. Local transmission is where the patient was infected by a domestic mosquito that carrying the virus. While Zika can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and even sexual contact, the virus would still have originated either through travel or local transmission.

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Aedes Aegypti

As of right now, there are no known cases of the Zika virus in Oklahoma. Dr. Bradley explains that our mosquitos are just different. “In regards to the Zika virus, the Aedes Aegypti, or the common name is the Yellow Fever mosquito, is the main type of mosquito that’s effective in spreading this virus…We only have some parts of the United States that have populations of yellow fever mosquitos and its not in Oklahoma.”

 

While Bradley acknowledges the outbreak sounds alarming, Zika only affects 1 in 5 people. The infection yields mild symptoms of a fever, rash, joint pains, and red eyes. The virus usually is gone within a week’s time. The main concern of Zika revolves entirely around pregnant women as it can cause birth defects in the baby. The common birth defect is microcephaly, where the baby’s head grows much smaller than average and can lead to several developmental disabilities. If you suspect you might have symptoms of the Zika, the CDC recommends seeking your healthcare provider, who can test for the virus.

Zika Virus Prevention Tips

  • Avoid travel to Zika outbreak areas.
  • If you must travel to such areas, wear long-sleeve clothing, use insect repellant, and avoid areas and times where mosquitos are common.
  • Avoid sexual contact or wear protection with Zika-infected individuals.

Dr. Bradley says there is no need for concern but that may not always be the case. While the Zika virus’s main carrier is the Yellow Fever mosquito, there is always the possibility that the virus might spread to a native species of mosquito. With so few cases in the US, chances of a domestic mosquito biting and becoming a carrier of Zika are slim. However, Bradley warns of one upcoming event that might change that, Spring Break.

 

 

The best way to stay safe from the Zika virus is to remain informed. Following information by the CDC will keep you updated and aware of prevention methods. While the potential for a US outbreak does exist, health officials say there is no immediate need to panic. More information on Zika can be found on the CDC website and also by visiting the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Zika page.

Five Tips for the Freshman Journalism Student

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With Fall, many highschool graduates are undertaking the crazy adventure of higher education. Among the college-bound is the next generation of journalists. As the Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Oklahoma Baptist University, I’ve witnessed the shock many students have when they take their first steps into news. Its a lot more work than most realize as they often say, “I had no idea…”

To those brave souls beginning their journey in to journalism, here are my five tips to help you better prepare.

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CONSUME THE NEWS

Are you reading the news? No? Start doing it.

Are you watching news broadcasts? No? Start watching them.

If you want to be a journalist, prepare to eat, breathe, and sleep the news. Haha! Not really, there is no sleep for journalists. You need to be plugged into news all the time. Know what is happening in the world around you and stay informed. Consume news in different formats from different organizations. There is no room for favoritism, read and watch it all. You will not only stay up-to-date with events but learn different styles of reporting.

The more you educate yourself, the better you will be able to report on various topics. You will be stronger at finding stories, covering all the angles, and understanding the weight of certain events.

A great way to be on top of things is through Twitter and Facebook. Follow local and national journalists and news organizations of interest. If you check your social media few times a day, you will get the daily updates straight to your feed.

GET PLUGGED IN

Starting college can be an overwhelming experience. There are plenty of things demanding your attention. However, one of the best ways to establish a strong foundation in journalism is by connecting early with your school’s journalistic organizations. You won’t be expected to know everything from Day 1 but taking baby steps with the group will allow you to gain solid experience. Sticking with it through the years, you can graduate with an established reputation and attractive portfolio.

Make journalism your sport. A college athlete works hard to get on the team and trains to be ready for game day. Similarly, a journalism student needs to get involved and commit the time to getting the publication or broadcast polished. Take on that work ethic and you will be a News MVP in no time!

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USE YOUR ADVISORS

In college, you will have a faculty advisor and plenty of “unofficial” advisors. Your professors are excellent sources of knowledge. Too many students don’t take advantage of their teachers. Many of those old guys have careers longer than your existance and have plenty to share.

Professor’s help those who help themselves. Take iniative and go beyond the classroom. Be open with your advisor on your academic and professional goals. Talk to them about what opportunities are available to advance yourself. Ask your professors to teach you beyond the textbook and about their own experiences professionally.

LEARN EVERYTHING

Journalists used to have dedicated roles. You had a producer, a reporter, a photographer, an editor, etc. Times have changed and journalists are expected to be jacks-of-all-trades. News organizations are looking for journalists to be able to do it all. In some places, reporters are their own photographers and editors. Many times, photographers will be expected to conduct interviews, film the story, edit it all, and publish it. And everybody, I mean everybody, needs to be a social media guru.

News organizations are all experimenting with this new reality and, honestly, schools are still playing catch-up. Your education is your own. If you want to be best prepared for the climate of the newsroom, learn everything. Take courses beyond the role you would like to do. Are you an aspiring reporter? Take some photography and editing courses. Wanna be a photographer? Learn to write. The more tools in your belt, the more prepared you will be for any job.

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START NOW

From this day forth, don’t view yourself as a journalism student. You are a journalist. Even as you are learning the craft, see yourself as a professional. If you are truly serious about being a journalist, start acting like one.

Where to begin? Do an assessment of your online self. Is your social media reflective of how you want job seekers to view you? If not, clean it up. Additionally, consider creating new emails and profiles for the purpose of publishing your work.

If you feel you are ok online, start being a journalist. Find stories, write, take photos, report. If you have a specific topic you’d like to cover, go for it! Be a community journalist. Report on local sports. Cover pop culture. Just start establishing yourself. You will not only be building yourself up as a commodity but gaining invaluable experience. Even if no one views your work, you will have, at least, began training your “muscles” for bigger and better opportunities. If you do gain viewers, you’ll have the beginnings of a killer portfolio. Dream big!

For journalism tips and trends, follow me on Twitter @xtiannetizen.

Smartphone Storytelling: Preventing Baltimore in Oklahoma City

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This is the beginning of an ongoing series I call, “Smartphone Storytelling,” an exploration of how smartphones can play new roles in journalism. Throughout the series, I will limit myself strictly to a smartphone (Galaxy S5) and a laptop (Macbook Pro). I will not use tripods, external microphones, car mounts, or any accessories beyond the built-in features of these two devices (excluding charging and transfer cables). This allows me to work solely with the tools that even the average highshool student would have access to. My hopes is to discover new approaches towards how journalists can use these devices and encourage everyone that, should they have these two basic tools, they have all the power to make their voice heard around the world.

PREVENTING BALTIMORE IN OKLAHOMA CITY

The story I worked on is titled, “Preventing Baltimore in Oklahoma City.” Previously living in Baltimore, I currently reside in Oklahoma City. I was drawn to the coverage of April’s protests that shook Baltimore. Having seen police-involved deaths here in Oklahoma, I wanted to see what changes were being made and needed to be made to prevent the events of Baltimore from happening here. Speaking with both police and community leaders, I crafted my story. However, anyone in journalism can say how a story changes at a moment’s notice. One moment of breaking news drastically changed everything.

STORYTELLING WITH A SMARTPHONE

This story, being the first, was really meant to be with my technical comfort zone. I did not envision any difficult shots or recording challenges when I started. In fact, the work was made very easy as the phone served a critical part in the story’s development. I conducted research on my phone, made calls, used it’s GPS to get me to the various locations, monitored social media (which is how I discovered the in-custody death), logged my recordings, and was even considering downloading a police scanner app. The combination of the built-in features and apps allow for a great deal of innovation.

Both interior interviews were straightforward. I sat down, supported my elbows with the desktop, and held the phone with both hands (always shooting horizontally). I made sure both the interviews were in a quiet space. Smartphones ‘ microphones act omnidirectionally and will pick up a lot noise. It was imperative to get my phone very close to my subjects (3-4 feet). This shortcoming was what prevented me from getting any useful audio during the press talk by the police at the scene of the in-custody death. Having arrived in the middle of it, I couldn’t get any closer and kept at a distance that picked up too much traffic noise. Recording my own track was perhaps the easiest and I was happy with the quality of the recording.

Broll became considerable harder to film due to the lack of a worthwhile zoom on the camera. The phone did a satisfactory job in capturing wide shots but limited my angles and ability to focus on specific subjects. The medium shots of the police cars suffered both from quality and camera shake. This would be the primary reason why a smartphone would face challenges in reporting on sports and other stories that require the ability to zoom in on the action. To get those great closeups, you physically will need to get closer (which can’t always happen).

At many points in the story, I used video and pictures from other sources. A quick search of “Baltimore protests 2015” under a creative commons filter on Youtube turned up solid video. I also got permission from Mr. Washington to use his videos and images on Facebook. Some online download tools, such as keepvid.com, allowed me to easily get what I needed. With just the one phone, I utilized my laptop’s camera to record my conversations with the OKC media. Additionally, I used Quicktime’s screen capture ability to get the broll of the OKC PD social media sites. All of it allowed me to have many more elements in crafting my story.

For this story, I can’t say I really pushed the boundaries of smartphone use. I did however demonstrate that a complex story can be told with simple tools. I look forward in future entries to have more opportunities to getting up close to subjects and seeing what I can really do.

Why the Digital Revolution Changes Nothing

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It was the French journalist, Alphonse Karr, who said “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The advent of mobile technology and social media has both drastically altered the news business and also hardly changed it at all. A contradiction? No, it just depends on what you are examining. The relevance of these changes depend on whether you are speaking of the news organization or the journalist.

News organizations have had to adapt quickly to the era of the smartphone. People are engaging far differently with news content than ever before. According the American Press Institute, well over 70% of mobile device users utilize their devices for news consumption (API, 2014). News audiences are demanding immediacy from their news sources. The news organization must meet this growing demand with a vigilant online presence across multiple venues.

The news organization that creates content for traditional and digital audience benefits from increased viewership. While statistics demonstrate a large boost in digital audiences, the Pew Research Center shows healthy growth for broadcast news, as well (PRC, 2015). Local TV news has seen a 2-3% growth with national TV news growing by 2-5%. This data shows audiences are not choosing one media or the other but engaging news across a variety of platforms. News organizations that fully embrace their digital venues are seeing not only a larger audience but a more engaged audience.

Unlike ever before, audiences are more than just consumers but producers of the news. Whether they serve as news aggregators or even citizen journalists, audiences are now involved in the discussion alongside the reporters. Their added voices to the conversation is a double-edged sword. As stated previously, an engaged audience is certainly a boost for news organizations but that same audience creates an uncontrollable factor. The risk of a single bad tweet, a single inappropriate photo, a single piece of misinformation is ever present. Audiences are not bound to expectations of journalistic integrity. Additionally, the audience’s demand for immediacy dictates what journalists will cover and how it will be covered. News organizations now face the risks and challenges of engaging an audience who can talk back.

Yes, the things have changed. It seems as if the whole news world, for better or worse, has been turned on its head. My companion piece, Wagging the Dog, shows as much. However, the solution to all the challenges faced in this brave new digital world has always been known. Good journalism requires good journalists. In their book, “Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Multimedia World,” Debora Wenger and Deborah Potter write, “ As the technology used to manage the content becomes easier to navigate, multimedia journalism is likely to become less about knowing how to post a story or use a smartphone to capture video and more about the skills its takes to gather and present information that is relevant and compelling to an audience – regardless of whether that audience is watching, reading or interacting with the story.”

The role of a journalist has not and will not change. We are still expected to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent (SPJ, 2014). The advances in technology and audience engagement complicate our roles and will require more effort. However, the responsibilities of a journalist will remain the same across time, technology, and culture.

References:

American Press Institute, 2014. “The Personal News Cycle: How Americans choose to get their news.” American Press Institute. 17 Mar, 2014. Web. 19, May, 2015.

Mitchell, A., 2015. “State of the News Media 2015.” The Pew Research Center. 29 Apr, 2015. Web. 19 May, 2015.

Wenger, Debora Halpern, and Deborah Potter. “The Multimedia Mind-set.” Advancing the Story: Journalism in a Multimedia World. Third ed. CQ, 2015. 11. Print.

SPJ, 2014. “SPJ Code of Ethics.” Society of Professional Journalists. 6 Sept, 2014. Web. 19 May, 2015

Wagging the Dog: How Online Audiences are Changing the Landscape of News

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The Internet is no new thing. Its common use has been around for well over twenty years. Yet, while the mediums of print, radio, and TV remain largely unchanged, the ever-shifting sands of the Internet daily present new opportunities for news organizations. Unlike the static journalism in traditional media, online audiences are able to join the conversation with journalists and, thus, affect the message.

Online news manifests near limitless potentials for the engagement of audiences and audiences engaging journalists. Where journalists once told stories, their role is transforming to becoming facilitators of discussion. Through online journalism, the audience is now becoming the story-tellers.

The redefining of both journalism and journalists spurs the need for increased research into the developing dynamic between news organizations and their audiences. Studying this evolution creates a challenge akin to charting a land in constant flux.

My research seeks to examine the how often consumers of online news become producers of online news. The core of the study is a quantitative online survey regarding online news consumption and production. The survey is augmented by previous research focused on similar analysis of online news and audiences.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Researching online news audiences potential to become engaged with stories must look at three levels of engagement. I call them the three P’s: Propagation, Production, and Participation. Propagation is the consumer who is commenting, sharing, liking, retweeting, etc. news stories. Production is the consumer who adds to a story through original content; such as blogs, photos/videos, or other forms of citizen journalism. Participation includes audiences who consume online news but engage in civic participation either online or offline; those who go beyond adding to the story but become part of the story itself.

PROPOGATION

In recent years, there is a growing realization that the propagation of a local news story can have a butterfly effect. A relatively small event can suddenly gain a global audience. Recent years are rife with examples of how online news audiences took part in raising awareness of issues.

A case in Germany was central in a study of the exponential growth in propagating news. The researchers discovered how Twitter’s hashtag system facilitated an isolated discussion into a national debate (Maireder & Schlogl, 2014). Researchers identify that the structure of social media allowed for rapid growth. The overlap of users participations in online homogenous clusters spread the story to new audiences, who in turn propagated it further.

An anthropological study of the 2014 Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO further analyzed how social media infrastructures foster the consumption and propagation of news stories (Bonilla & Rosa, 2015). This study recognizes how the hashtag #ferguson brought several voices to the discussion. While this correlated to the case study in Germany, Bonilla and Rosa note that propagation through hashtags and similar index systems potentially limit the conversation to exclusively indexed tweets or comments, offering only a slice of a larger discussion.

The Arab Spring in 2011 was a watershed moment for online news. A study of local Iraqi Arab Spring youtube videos had gained a surprisingly high viewership in both the US and Canada (Al-Rawi, 2014). Viewership data showed that North American audiences ranked 2nd to the local Iraqi audiences. The study demonstrated that online news can garner major traction beyond the intended audiences.

The research shows online audiences can propagate a news story faster and more efficiently than offline media audiences. While Twitter is a leading venue for news propagation, the previous research doesn’t begin to examine how news is being spread through alternate social media (like Facebook or Google+), comments on message boards, emails, and other online platforms.

PRODUCTION

Traditional news media has always faced the challenge of creating local content that audiences will care about. Audience fragmentation has created a demand for greater diversity in news stories and hyper-localization (Maier, 2010). While online news fills that role, consumers want deeper coverage. Through online venues, consumers are beginning to produce content to fill the gaps in reporting.

Whether creating news content or submitting original content to news organizations, citizen journalism is becoming more established. As of 2014, the Pew Research Center found that 7% of US adults are producing user-generated content with another 7% submit their content to news organizations (Olmstead,Mitchell, Holcomb, & Vogt, 2014). Contrasting this with international findings, a study was performed in Sweden that found citizen journalism is on decline; with comments and blog links becoming less frequent (Karlsson, Bergstrom, Clerwall, & Fast, 2015). The Swedish study admits shortcomings as it largely deals with blogging and surveyed only Swedish participants. Ultimately, the findings in the Swedish research rings false. The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2012 that found 39% of the top news videos on Youtube were user-generated content (Pew Research Center Journalism & Media Staff, 2012).

PARTICIPATION

If the purpose of journalism is to create a better informed public than an audience that engages in civic participation must be its fruition of that purpose. Compared to traditional media, a study found that online news consumers are more likely to join in civic engagement and political participation (Bachmann & Zuniga, 2015). The authors of this saw online news audiences’ capability to propagate and create content fostered a positive climate for civic participation.

An earlier study compared and contrasted professional and citizen journalism’s audiences likelihood of civic engagement. Two interesting findings was that citizen journalism fosters online civic participation and that consumers with a higher trust in citizen journalism are more likely to participate in politics (Kaufhold, Valenzuela, & Zuniga, 2010). This supports the idea that online news audiences are more likely to engage civically and politically.

One of the best events to study the relationship between online news audiences and their level of civic participation is the Arab Spring of 2011. In contrast to the past articles, a study in 2013 strived to prove that political context precedes social media use, trivializing social media’s role in engagement (Wolfsfeld, Segev, & Sheafer, 2013). I considered this study flawed and the conclusion moot. Of course the political or civic event will precede social media use. Until the event has begun, there is nothing to really share or discuss. The study should have focused on examining the level of participation after social media use. If the previous studies offer any truth, each progressive political event should see larger amounts of participation due to preceding social media use.

QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH

Audiences of online news move beyond being mere consumers through propagation, production, and/or participation. Through taking an active role in journalism, the consumers become producers themselves. Previous studies usually limited research towards specific contexts or audience activities. Hoping to gain insight into the audience’s roles in creating content, I created a survey to examine online news consumers’ contributions to news stories. My research question is, “How frequently are online news consumers participating in journalism?”

METHODOLOGY

To answer this question, I conducted a survey utilizing the website, kwiksurveys.com. This was beneficial as it was easy to use, offered many report options, and was free of cost. All of this made it an effective tool for conducting online quantitative research.

While designing the survey, my independent variable was consumption of online news. The dependent variables were propagation of online news, production of online news, and civic participation. While the survey only included a single straight forward inquiry about participation in civic engagement, multiple questions were used to measure participants’ levels of propagation and production of online news content.

The survey was constructed with 15 questions. Of the 15, four served as demographic questions and the remainder related to determining online news consumption patterns. These questions included inquiries about viewing habits, likelihood of interactions with news content, viability of creating news content, and the likelihood of participating in civic engagement. I pretested the questionnaire by doing the survey, myself, and removing my results from the data.

To recruit my candidates, I utilized two online social circles. My first pool of potential participants was my email contacts at Oklahoma Baptist University. This was comprised of approximately 40 college-age students. An email was sent asking for volunteers to complete the survey. The second contact group was via my near 100 Facebook contacts. The majority of those contacts are between the ages of 30-60. Of those two groups, I had 28 participants respond to the survey.

RESEARCH RESULTS

The initial four questions of the survey asked about gender, age, education, and income level. 54% of the respondents were female, with the remaining 46% being male. At 39%, the majority of the participants were between the ages of 18-24 with 55+ being the second largest age demographic, at 18%. The highest education level completed by the bulk respondents, at 46%, was a Highschool Diploma but the remaining 54%, as a whole, had earned some degree of higher education. The annual household incomes of the participants was split evenly with 50% making less than $50,000 and 50% making more than $50,000.

50% of the survey’s participants indicated their primary online news source is a professional media website, such as CNN.com or BBC.com (See Figure 1). Social media was used by 36%. The remaining 14% comprised of apps, citizen journalism, or no response. Regardless of news source, the participants indicated their preference for national and local news at 39% and 37%, respectively (See Figure 2). The rest of the respondents prefered to view topical news, such as sports or entertainment. 89% of the particpants also indicated some likelihood of seeking deeper coverage by watching embedded videos or clicking links to related subject matter.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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When asked about additional viewing habits, 76% answered they view online news at least once a day with 36% of the total respondents specifying they view more twice a day. The participants were equally divided when asked what device they viewed online news on. 50% utilized PCs and 50% used a mobile device.

The surveyed online news audiences indicated a higher amount will share online news content than will post online comments about it. 61% of the participants said they would, at some level, share the online news content compared to 29% who answered they would post comments on the news stories (See Figure 3). Of that 29%, only one participant indicated they would comment on news content but not propagate it with others.

Figure 3

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In regards to viewing online news on social media, 50% of the respondents favored Facebook, making it the top choice (See Figure 4). The second largest majority, at 29%, used Twitter. Beyond 11% indicating no use of social media for news, the remaining participants indicated using other social media platforms.

Figure 4

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Participants were asked if they created any user-generated news content, such as blogging, taking photos, or shooting video. In addition, they were asked if they ever had online discussions about online news content. 68% responded they do not produce any content or engage in any online disucssions (See Figure 5). The remaining 32% indicated they do take part in creating original online news content and discussing news online.

Figure 5

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The final question asked online news audiences of their level of civic engagement. 54% indicated some level of civic participation with 46% saying they do not. Only one participatn responded they frequently participate with the remainder of the 54% responding they only participate sometimes.

RESEARCH DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION

Reviewing the results, there was a significant amount of journalistic participation by the online news consumers. Almost two-thirds of the respondents were active, at some level, in propagating news stories. Nearly a third, were engaged in online news content production or discussions of news stories. Over half the respondents participated in civc engagement. In totality, the results show that this group of online news consumers is very active in contributing to online journalism. The

In comparison to previous articles on the propagation of news, the survey results correlated to findings of how news stories rapidly spread. With 61% of the respondents sharing online content, news stories dramatically increase in viewership due to the high-level of propagation found among online news consumers.

According to the 2014 State of the Media by the Pew Research Center ((Olmstead,Mitchell, Holcomb, & Vogt, 2014), 14% of US adults either post user-generated content or submit to news organizations. My research indicated online news content production by 29% of the participants. With the majority of the respondents being 18-24, it stands to reason that younger online news audiences are more likely to produce original news content.

This study’s primary shortcoming is the participation pool was small and did not accurately reflect current US census data. In addition, the survey was limited to broad definitions of online news consumption and participation. Further research would need to provide a more in-depth analysis to establish a better cross-section of how online news consumers participate in journalism. I believe this is absolutely needed as previous studies only look at individual elements of audiences’ engagement rather than the totality of their behavior.

In conclusion, I found that online news audiences are very engaged with the product. Whether through sharing, creating content, or being motivated to participate, online news viewers show they are capable of more than just consuming. In correlation with past research, my study shows news organizations need to go beyond talking to their viewers and strive to talk with them. The consumers are increasingly becoming the producers and journalism is becoming more open-source.

Referernces

Maireder, A., Schlogl, S. (2014). 24 Hours of an #outcry: The Networked Publics of a Socio-Political Debate. European Journal of Communication, 29(6), 687-702.

Bonilla, Yarimar., Rosa, Jonathan. (2015). #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist. 42 (1). 4-17.

Al-Rawi, A. (2014). The Arab Spring and Online Protests in Iraq. International Journal of Communication, 8(2014), 916-942.

Maier, S. (2010). All the News Fit to Post? Comparing News Content on the Web to Newspapers, Television, and Radio. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 87(3-4), 548-562

Olmstead, Kenneth., Mitchell, Amy., Holcomb, Jesse., Vogt, Nancy. (2014). News Video on the Web: The Audience for Digital News Videos. The Pew Research Center: Journalism & Media. 26 March 2014. Web. 3 April 2015. http://www.journalism.org/2014/03/26/the-audience-for-digital-news-videos/

Karlsson, Michael. Bergstrom, Annika., Clerwall, Christer., Fast, Karin. (2015). Participatory journalism – the (r)evolution that wasn’t. Content and user behavior in Sweden 2007-2013. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.

Pew Research Center: Journalism & Media Staff. (2012). Youtube & News. The Pew Research Center: Journalism & Media. 16 July 2012. Web. 3 April 2015. http://www.journalism.org/2012/07/16/youtube-news/

Bachmann, I., Zuniga, H. (2013). News Platform Preference as a Predictor of Political and Civic Participation. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(4), 496-512.

Kaufhold, K., Valenuela, S., Zuniga, Homero. (2010). Citizen Journalism and Democracy: How User-Generated News Use Relates to Political Knowledge and Participation. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 87(3-4), 515-529

Wolfsfeld, G., Segev, Elad., Sheafer, T. (2013). Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18(2), 115-137.

Churches offer family friendly Halloween activities

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It was Halloween night and hundreds of families were going to church. Scores of princesses, superheroes, and even an Ebola victim lined up for candy and games. Dressed as Superman, I passed out Bibles next to a plinko board, one of several fair games setup. These children were skipping traditional trick-or-treating to, instead, visit Trunk-or-Treat.

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Photo by Sarah Draper

Halloween at Edmond First Baptist Church was a unique contrast to the activities I remember of my youth. I recall memories of shuffling along poor lit neighborhoods, knocking on strangers’ doors, and always being slightly scared of what might happen. The news never made it any easier. Leading up to Halloween, I would hear reports of poisoned candy, child abductions, and other terrifying crimes. EFBC’s Trunk-or-Treat was the celebration I wished I had when I was younger. It was safe, well lit, and had more candy than a kid could hope for.

Greeting each child at the plinko game, Jeremy Duffle helped orchestrate Trunk-or-Treat. While this was his first time at the event, Jeremy heard of the growing trend among churches to provide a trick-or-treat alternative, “A lot of churches are offering this now as kind of a safe haven to bring their families and their kids in, to basically bypass the strange neighborhood or scary dark corner aspect of trick-or-treating.”

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Photo by Sarah Draper

EFBC was certainly not alone in providing family friendly Fall events. Houses of worship across the country are reaching out to neighborhoods with fall festivals and Halloween night activities. In the Oklahoma City Metro, many churches opened themselves up to their communities.

  • Douglas Boulevard United Methodist Church hosted its own Trunk-or-Treat.
  • Putnam City Baptist Church sponsored FestiFall, a similar event with games and candy.
  • Mayfair Heights United Methodist Church held a Fall Festival featuring a craft show and bake sell. 

(Source: NewsOK)

“What it’s doing is it’s giving our people, the people of this church, an avenue to reach out to those that they would never come in contact with before. It gave us a blank canvas to reach a lot of different people and in a very safe setting,” Jeremy said.

Safety is a major concern for many during Halloween night. Unfortunately, this Halloween saw the tragic deaths and injuries of children across the country. One incident in California led to the death of three teenage girls when struck by an SUV (Source: ABC). Another vehicular accident in California left a father dead and his son injured (Source: LA Times).

At EFBC’s Trunk or Treat, there were no fast moving cars. Police were present. Dozens of caring volunteers kept watch. Children orderly went from activity to activity. I observed hundreds of families attending. They were enjoying themselves and carefree. They were happy and safe. Jeremy agrees, “I think it went really well. We had a huge turnout.”

Trick-or-treating remains as traditional to Halloween as Jack-O-Lanterns and candy apples. However, churches are finding new ways to give families a safe atmosphere for costumed fun. Trunk-or-Treat and other Fall festivals are relevant ways for churches to give back to the communities they are in. The compassion of churches opening their doors will ripple throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, giving further opportunities to touch lives. As I watched children walking away with candy and a new Bible, I sensed that this small blessing of loving thy neighbor could have a tremendous impact in each child’s life.

 

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Sources:

Duffle, Jeremy. Personal Interview. November 2nd, 2014

Staff Reports. (2014, Oct. 25). Oklahoma City-area churches offer festivals and other fall activities. Retrieved November 2nd, 2014 from http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-area-churches-offer-festivals-and-other-fall-activities/article/5359417

Pierce, Harold. (2014, Nov. 4). Halloween crash victim was Irvine lawyer, devoted father. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/orangecounty/la-me-11-05-irvine-halloween-20141105-story.html 

Dillon, Raquel Maria. (2014, Nov. 4). Man charged in Hit-Run Halloween Deaths of 3 Teens. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/girls-13-killed-halloween-mourned-family-26670726