CITIZEN JOURNALISM AT THE MARGINS
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Journal: Journalism Practice
© 2016 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Amidst burgeoning literature on citizen journalism, we still know relatively little about how and why genuinely marginalised groups seek to use this form of reporting to challenge their exclusion. In this article, we aim to address this gap by analysing two UK citizen journalism initiatives emanating from The Big Issue Foundation, a national homeless organisation, and Access Dorset, a regional charity for disabled and elderly people. These case studies are united by the authors’ involvement in both instances, primarily through designing and delivering bespoke citizen journalism education and mentoring. Based on over 40 hours of interviews with participants of the workshops and 36 hours of participant observation, we analyse the challenges participants faced in their journey to become citizen journalists. This included: low self-esteem, physical health and mental wellbeing, the need for accessible and adaptable technology, and overcoming fear associated with assuming a public voice. We also analyse marginalised groups’ attitudes to professional journalism and education, and its role in shaping journalistic identity and self-empowerment. Whilst demonstrably empowering and esteem building, our participants were acutely aware of societal power relations that were seemingly still beyond their ability to influence. Those who are marginalised are, nevertheless, in the best position to use citizen journalism as a conduit for social change, we argue—though challenges remain even at the grassroots level to foster and sustain participatory practices.