I've just come back from Colombia, what a beautiful area of the world! Apart from sneaking in a few days of adventures including a motorbike trip into the stunning Sierra Nevada hinterlands (above), the main focus of my trip was work.
I travelled to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast to present my MA thesis research on unintentional journalism at the IAMCR 2017 conference. It was a long haul, and I payed for the (five) flights each way myself - being at the start of my PhD means no funding yet, so going to conferences is something that I have to budget for out of my own pocket. Fortunately, the cost paid off this time and two pretty neat things happened at pretty much the same time a few weeks ahead of the trip.
Firstly, the draft paper that I submitted for the conference was nominated for the Dallas Smythe Memorial Award. I jointly won the award and received the prize in an award ceremony on the first day of the conference. The award recognised an early career researcher with an outstanding paper accepted for presentation the conference. The paper had to show academic rigour and flair (read: enthusiasm). I'd like to think I really contributed well in the enthusiasm department. It's a strength of mine.
Secondly, at about the same time, I had been working on refining the paper and submitting it to a journal called Journalism Studies. The paper was accepted, and I've now had my first academic paper published in a great journal. Feeling pretty chuffed!
You can download the paper (for free) here!
My presentation at the conference was basically a summary of the paper. I've copied the abstract below. I'll save writing about Colombia for another time, there is so much to say and not the space here.
As new actors assert their voices into global discussions the boundaries of journalism are continuously tested and tugged at. Some, like citizen journalists and alternative community media organisations, are relatively well documented by scholars. Others, present a grey area in our understanding of who makes up the perceived ‘in club’ of journalism. One such area of emerging journalistic boundary research is about the media outputs of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), whose staff have traditionally been seen as sources for or stringers to journalists. Technological advances in information communications technology, increased staffing capacity and more sophisticated media strategies mean that some NGOs are now producing their own independent news as opposed to relying on journalists to tell their organisational stories. The question is, however, whether this is to be seen as more sophisticated communication strategies aimed at advocating a specific viewpoint or/and an emerging form of reporting folding into the expanding boundaries of journalism. This paper argues that one way to conceptualise advocates and NGO actors engaging in eye-witness reporting is as “Unintentional Journalists” doing the work of journalism, without intentionally meaning to do so. Following an exploratory case study of the Pacific branch of global NGO 350.org, the paper suggests that the organisation’s members who produced reports about the passing of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, 2015, intended to produce advocacy and in doing so, unintentionally acted to fill a global news gap for reporting from the Pacific region.
This research is a result of curiosity and essentially a massive amount of respect and interest for what 350 Pacific and the wider 350 movement is doing. The whole organisation uses media in a very innovative way and this is just one example of how 350 has operated/is operating - I'd recommend looking at The Guardian's 'Keep it in the ground' campaign for another example of a journalism/advocacy collaboration spearheaded by 350.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to know anymore about this paper.