Citizen journalism and alternative media in Zimbabwe: An ethnographic study of citizen participation, newsmaking practices and discourses at AMH Voices

Tshabangu, Thulani (2019-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT:Technologies such as the internet and mobile smartphones allow citizens to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news, thereby challenging the dominance of conventional media and professionalised ways of journalistic practices. This production-based ethnographic study investigates the operations of citizen journalism and alternative media in a repressive environment in Zimbabwe. It focuses on citizen participation, newsmaking practices and discourses at the citizen journalism and alternative media outlet of AMH Voices. The study is located within a specific context and timeframe, which isfrom 2014 to 2018, during which Zimbabwe’s multidimensional crisis elongated. Central to this study was an endeavour to demonstrate how the crisis supported the emergence of citizen journalism as well as how citizen journalists constructed and circulated alternative political narratives and counterhegemonic discourses of the crisis at AMH Voices. The theoretical point of departure in this study refers to the public sphere and critical political economy theories. The argument is that a counterpublic sphere emerged, in which AMH Voices was viewed as an oppositional public sphere that afforded marginalised citizens the opportunity to participate in journalistic processes. Participation in journalistic processes enabled ordinary citizens to express themselves and contest the hegemonic position by establishing counterhegemonic news frames, reframing news stories and setting new topics for discursive conflict and negotiation. The critical political economy theory (CPE) was applied to understand how ownership and control at AMH Voices impacted on editorial direction and output. The CPE theory was also applied to understand structural factors that constrained citizen journalism and alternative media in Zimbabwe. Data was collected through triangulated ethnographic methods of participant observation, interviews and critical discourse analysis. AMH Voices was under constant flux as citizen participation, newsmaking practices and discourses changed from the time of its inception in 2014 due to a change of context and organisational factors. The findings revealed that citizen participation occurred at three, namely levels of content production, decision making and public sphere deliberations. Content related participation enabled citizen journalists to contribute to news production processes in different ways and at different stages. Participation in decision making was through a reader representative who sat in the public editorial board to convey reader feedback and interests. Participation in public sphere deliberations was the most common form of citizen participation that occurred through user comments, where citizens engaged in peer to peer review of thoughts and ideas. The newsmaking practices at AMH Voices were structured, unstructured, hybrid and digital. The citizen news discourses were mostly framed in non-dominant perspectives using interpretive news writing styles to express alternative political narratives, challenge the status quo and advocate for radical political change. However, the study showed that citizen journalism and alternative media at AMH Voices were also influenced by contextual and structural pressures and influences, including conservative views on gender, which made it difficult to categorise it as an automatic or consistent counterpublic sphere.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Digitale tegnologie soos die internet en slimfone laat mense/burgers toe om ʼn aktiewe rol te speel in die proses om nuus in te samel, dit te ontleed en te versprei en sodoende die oorheersing van konvensionele media en professionele joernalistiek-praktyk uit te daag. Hierdie produksie-gebaseerde etnografiese studie ondersoek die werking van burgerjoernalistiek en alternatiewe media in ʼn onderdrukkende omgewing in Zimbabwe. Dit fokus op die insette van inwoners/burgers, nuwe praktyke om nuus te skep en diskoerse van AMH Voices. Die studie het tydens Zimbabwe se multidimensionele krisis van 2014-2018 plaasgevind. Die kern was om te demonstreer hoe ʼn krisis die opkoms van burgerjoernalistiek moontlik maak en hoe burgerjoernaliste alternatiewe politieke uitbeeldings en teenhegemoniese diskoerse van die krisis by AMH Voices opgestel en versprei het. Teorieë van die openbare sfeer en kritiese politieke ekonomie is as vertrekpunte gebruik. ʼn Verwante konsep wat toegepas is, is die opponerende openbare sfeer. AMH Voices het in dié sfeer gemarginaliseerde burgers die kans gegee om aan joernalistiek-prosesse deel te neem om hulself uit te druk deur teenhegemoniese nuusrame, die nuwe interpretasie van bestaande nuusrame, en die opstel van nuwe onderwerpe vir diskursiewe konflik en onderhandeling. Die teorie van kritiese politieke ekonomie is toegepas om te verstaan hoe eienaarskap en beheer by AMH Voices op redaksionele rigting en inhoud ingewerk het. Die teorie is ook toegepas om te verstaan watter strukturele faktore burgerjoernalistiek en alternatiewe media in Zimbabwe aan bande lê. Data is ingesamel deur die etnografiese metodes van waarneming en deelnemende waarneming, onderhoude, en kritiese diskoersanalise te trianguleer. AMH Voices was ʼn dinamiese omgewing omdat die aard van burgers se betrokkenheid, die nuusproduksieprosse en -diskoerse tussen 2014-2018 deur konstante veranderinge in die konteks en organisatoriese faktore geraak is. Daar is bevind dat burgerbetrokkenheid op drie vlakke plaasgevind het, naamlik inhoudsproduksie, besluitneming en deelname aan die debate in die publieke sfeer. Burgers het in verskillende stadiums en op verskillende maniere aan die produksieproses deelgeneem. Deelname aan besluitneming was moontlik omdat ʼn verteenwoordiger van lesers in die openbare redaksieraad gedien het en die terugvoer en belange van burgers daar kon opper. Deelname aan die debate in die openbare sfeer was die mees algemene vorm van burgerbetrokkenheid deurdat gebruikers kommentaar gelewer het op mekaar se bydraes en idees uitgeruil het. Die nuusproduksiepraktyke by AMH Voices was gestruktureerd, ongestruktureerd, hibried en digitaal. Die diskoerese van die burgerjoernaliste het van teen-hegemoniese rame en ʼn interpratiewe nuusskryfstyl gebruik gemaak om meestal alternatiewe narratiewe te skep wat die status quo uitgedaag en vir radikale politieke verandering betoog het. Die studie het egter ook aangetoon dat burgerjoernalistiek en alternatiewe media in die geval vant AMH Voices ook beïnvloed is deur kontekstuele en strukturele druk en invloede, insluitend konserwatiewe sienings oor gender, wat ʼn beskrywing as outomatiese of konstante teenpublieke sfeer bemoeilik.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107172
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