Journalism as a Public Conversation in the 21st Century; what is the role of the citizen?

Posted: May 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

We have been learning about journalism and the historical phases of journalism throughout this course. We have been discussing about the sustainability of journalism in the era of the Net. We are all aware that print journalism is struggling to compete with its online counterpart. News are moving online and the public have been given more power of creating content of the news than that in conventional journalism (Chrisholm, 2006). Yes, it is totally true when today we have interactive session after every piece of news; we have blog (as I am expressing my views after reading the three articles); we have youtube and many other social networking site where people can define who they are and freely express themselves.

Therefore, Meadows (2001) stated that “the notion of the institution of the fourth estate has been adapted according to changing social, economic and cultural conditions”. With the shift away from its traditional mission, the fourth estate or watchdog, many forms of news are born to meet the demand of audiences: infotainment, edutainment, talkshow, etc. In the 21st century, audience who is used to be seen as news receiver is positioned in the central of the flow of news, and most of the time are the ones who decide what news or info they want to receive.

We have been talking about the power of viewers and readers since we started learning about journalism (and since you read my post). But there is some points that are very interesting I have found from reading the three articles. Firstly, although many studies have asserted the power of audience, it is proposed that media is actually shaping cultures (Adam, 1993). The author claimed that media makes sense of the world to people, which makes things around them naturally accepted and immutable. In other words, how people form their opinions about things are dependent how media frames their news and info. This sounds like the magic bullet theory which believes that audience is passively receiving the news. However, in my opinion, both media and its viewers affect each other. They adjust to meet each other’s demand and views. Each side has its own powers to influence the other.

Secondly, when we talk about the power of journalism, one of the techniques that makes it so powerful is media framing defined as “the selection of sources by journalists rising to how society is imagined”. We have seen how different (and even contrast) Fox News and CNN report on the same news story. We all know that Fox News and CNN are very big news channels in the world in terms of their establishment. But which one should we believe in? We all say that viewers have a active power deciding what to believe and what not to. However, regarding hard news where ordinary people can’t be there to examine the truth, media is the only source that they rely on (since we all know that citizen journalism’s shortcoming is inaccuracy and incredibility). In the case of Fox News and CNN where politics involves in how they report news, where is the ethics of journalists? Where is the bottom line of “the truth”?

I suppose journalism in the 21st century is very much different from what it is supposed to be. Journalism is now very much affected by the government, politicians, tycoons and other factors in its society. Different countries have different journalism systems which I think it would be very interesting to discuss further in our seminars 🙂


Adam, S 1993, Notes towards a Definition of Journalism: Understanding an Old Craft as an Art Form, The Poynter Papers: No.2, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St Petersburg, Florida.

Chrisholm, J 2006, The Age of the Reader as Reporter is Here – and We Need to Be Listening, Asian Newspaper Focus, Semptember/October 2006, p.22.

Meadows, M 2001, A Return to Practice: Reclaiming Journalism as Public Conversation, in T Suellen & V Carolyn (eds), Journalism: Theory in Practice, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp.40-54.

  1. Mr WordPress says:

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  2. Joleen Lim says:

    Hi Khanh, thanks for your informative post :).

    I agree with you that journalist and readers do affect one another, but i guess the degree of influence has been increasing due to the rapid advancement of internet and communication technology. Back in the days when internet weren’t available to most people, news were available mostly through newspapers and, to some, radio and TV broadcast. It’s not so much of the magic bullet theory when people receive news and information passively. I believe its more of the fact that news outlet are not require to pay too much attention to the people’s requests as they knew that its readers have to turn to their papers no mater if the newspaper decide to take its people’s preference into account. Yet, the Internet technology has brought about a lot more competition in the field of journalism. People have to, now, actively seek for ways to increase their popularity, which the most effective way out would be to answer to the demand of the people. The competitive environment has no doubt motivated, if not forced, news agency to change its practice to encompass more public opinion, which to me, as a reader, is a great plus. 🙂

    • dhkhanh says:

      Hi Joleen, thanks for your comment!

      Like you said, in the past where people get news only through newspapers, and broadcasting channels. I disagree with your view that “it’s not so much of the magic bullet theory when people receive news and information passively”. I think magic bullet theory even till today has its own application, to the certain extent. For example, if the newspaper reports that a high-profile government official is doing some corruption. Obviously, this kind of news where ordinary people like us who can’t not be there to examine what the truth is, then we tend to rely on the newspaper and other kind of mainstream media. We said we have citizen journalism, but actually we all know that its shortcoming is incredibility. For such news like corruption in the government system, I believe that we all tend to believe in newspapers and other mainstream media.

  3. Terence Ong says:

    Haha! Good read on your blog here though it could use a bit more on your perspective regarding this issue/topic 😉

    But, I found a point that deserves a bit of discussion here – the media shaping the culture. I do agree that the media has a very strong influence on its audience, even in Singapore – just not in a good way.

    The media structure in SG has influenced Singaporeans to step up and offer their own viewpoint that hasn’t received the coverage it might have deserved in the mainstream news outlets. Sites such as and Temasek Review have come a long way to being just politically-satirical bloggers and focusing on issues that a lot of Singaporeans have been raising but yet remained unheard

    • dhkhanh says:

      Hi Terence,

      If you don’t mind, could you please share with me how media has influenced Singaporeans “not in a good way” like you said? I guess it would be an interesting discussion for us.

      Thank you =)

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