Lisette Johnston

Lisette Johnston

  • City University London
  • Journalism
Participant in 2013

Phd Projects


Reporting Atrocities on Television: how citizen generated content has shaped BBC TV news coverage of the Syria conflict.

For the first six months of the Syria conflict, there was a media blackout. Foreign journalists were banned and had to rely on people inside the country for information. This research assesses how the use of citizen generated content and social media platforms has affected BBC TV News’ coverage in the first six months of the Syria conflict, from March 2011. The study includes quantitative content analysis of news reports, known as packages, broadcast on BBC World News TV, the international channel, and the BBC News Channel. This involves measuring the number of user generated content (UGC) clips which were verified by the BBC’s UGC Hub. This will be compared with the number of clips which ‘went on air’ as part of BBC television news packages, using metadata held in the BBC’s electronic archive. This time period has been selected as for the first six months journalists could not legally enter Syria, and newsrooms often had to rely on videos and photos posted on social media platforms or sent into them. Lyse Doucet was the first BBC correspondent to travel on a visa to the country, with a government minder, in September 2011. The research also includes in-depth semi-structured qualitative interviews with BBC employees. These include correspondents who had to rely on this content to report, such as Lyse Doucet and Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. Other staff such as members of the UGC Hub who check and verify the content to ensure it can be used on air will also be interviewed. In order to assess how citizen generated content has shaped BBC television news footage, the research will also compare coverage of Syria to previous conflicts, in particular the Rwanda genocide in 1994, where journalists were unable to get into the country. Research questions include: How has citizen generated content and social media content been used to cover the Syria conflict? How frequently are UGC clips used in BBC TV news packages? What proportion of verified clips are used? What prominence are these UGC clips given? Where and when are verification warnings used in relation to UGC clips? How often are pieces referred to as ‘unverified’? How much and in what ways have BBC journalist roles changed to utilise UGC in news output? To what extent has coverage of Syria differed from how BBC TV News reported previous conflicts - for example Rwanda, and the 1982 Hama massacre?

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