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I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

Online journalism: Do we give audiences enough credit for creating?

For a couple of days now, I’ve been meaning to post my reflections from “New Media Theory: How Far Have We Traveled?” an academic conference about new media research at Texas Tech University. When I got a chance today, I went to the Twitter feed to refresh my memory on what I heard and learned. I noticed a couple of Tweets I hadn’t before. I’m betting they were from students. They were more critical than academics normally get. But I’m glad I saw them because they helped me remember why I do research and why I attend conferences. My goal is not just to understand the new media landscape, but also to help audiences understand it so they can make better media decisions. If I’m only studying one medium, then maybe I’m missing the boat.

At least this is what Matt Pippen and Taylor Hicklen argued in their Tweets. Pippen argued we were missing the boat:

So far, #techconverge10 has focused only on traditional media’s presence in new media, ignoring the individual content producer phenomena … Academics are barely approaching how to interpret and use new media, assuming they aren’t just dismissing it as valueless.

After teasing us for our overly complex diagrams, Hicken added …

You can’t just make a few changes and expect a follower base. That’s not how new media works.

My first reaction was to dismiss these two. I wondered if they had listened to my presentation about user-generated content where I talked about a new definition of credibility that is not based on traditional media components. The point of my paper is connection is just as important as content in determining whether people will believe something.

I also asked if they had heard the presentation about Twitter from Kris Boyle or about interactivity from Bart Wojdynski about interactivity or even the award-winning paper from Sue Robinson on the transition from print to a digital mindset. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realize I was probably the one who wasn’t listening or at least not realizing the approach nearly all of us had taken. Most of the papers focused on the traditional media and in turn minimized the contributions of those outside. My own paper seemed to insinuate it takes a national media frame to make citizen journalism worthwhile. That was never my intention, but I can see how I slipped into that trap.

I’m glad I attended the conference because all of the presentations energized my research. I gained some valuable new directions and ideas. The most valuable insight, however, did not come from other academics but from the students who attended the conference. Not all journalism comes from legacy media. I preach that to my online journalism class all the time, but sometimes, in my zeal to help the traditional media make the transition, I forget.

I resolved to do more research on how non-traditional media, such as Twitter, YouTube, and discussion boards build credibility and community. The first step might be dusting off my TigerBoard study and trying to get it published, even thought it has been rejected twice.

Thanks to everyone involved with the conference, especially Dr. Tom Johnson at Texas Tech for organizing it. I hope to talk with most of you again this summer at AEJMC. We’ll discuss what you thought of the comments on Twitter. Why wait until then? Let’s tweet about it now.

PhotoCredit: Sue Robinson explains how the media mindset has changed because of the Internet. Thanks to Dr. Dawn Gilpin for posting this on her Facebook page.

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