Quality management of user-generated content in participatory journalism
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When a crowd of readers participate in local news by sending photos and stories to a newsroom, it is hard to manage the quality of the contributions. Readers’ expertise, interests, and motivations to participate vary. To produce better news more efficiently, there is a need for quality management of the user-generated content that the newsroom receives. The goal of this study is to define user-generated content quality in news journalism and find indications for quality management in online communities. This thesis consists of a literature review, a website analysis, and an interview study. In the literature review, issues related to user-generated content, definitions of quality, and motivations to participate are explored. A website review was made to find out the variety of evaluation mechanisms that are in use and their functions on the websites. Definitions for user-generated news content quality were explored in interview data with three news editors and five reader reporters and in a questionnaire for 17 reader reporters. Evaluation of user-generated content and giving feedback for contributions are approaches to improve the quality of contributions over time. The partner in this research project, Sanoma Kaupunkilehdet from Helsinki, Finland, was in the process of designing an online community for reader reporters. Expectations of the upcoming users on such a community and approaches on motivating them to participate were in interest. A set of interview and prototype evaluation sessions was carried out with twenty active reader reporters. The results of the empirical study indicated that verbal feedback mechanisms were preferred over nonverbal mechanisms. The most valued feedback was the one from the newsroom. Competitive features were not popular among the participants, but highquality readers’ content was wished to be promoted more in an online service. The average age of the participants was 60 years. As a result of the literature review and the empirical study, guidelines for managing quality in online communities were proposed. Further comparison of different feedback mechanisms and the relation of age to the motives for participation were discovered to be interesting subjects for further study.