In Twitter and Wikipedia we trust?
Heflin, Kristen Marie
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Journalism is currently experiencing a severe crisis of credibility, and the Internet is often celebrated as a response to this crisis. Drawing from a historical-cultural analysis, this dissertation begins by historicizing the crisis of credibility in journalism and the development of the Internet as a decentralized network to provide the context necessary to better understand the expectations, practices and issues related to online information and the crisis of credibility. It then discusses the Internet’s inability to serve as the solution to this crisis as being rooted in the contradiction between deliberation and verification, two values at the heart of journalistic practice, liberal democratic media theory and ultimately Western epistemology. Through analyses of popular and trade press evaluations of Wikipedia and Twitter this dissertation discusses the irreconcilable nature of these values and the ways journalists try, unsuccessfully, to reconcile these two values. Despite its promise, the Internet is not the solution to this crisis of credibility because online sources (such as Wikipedia) and non-professional contributions (such as those on Twitter) have been largely accommodated within traditional journalistic routines, professional norms and reigning conceptions of producing authoritative knowledge. Thus, journalists’ use of Wikipedia and Twitter perpetuate the contradictions at the heart of journalism practice and traditional Western epistemology, which are the same instabilities that produce the present crisis in credibility. As such, this dissertation reveals that the crisis of credibility is not a technological one, but a cultural one about the inadequacy of liberal democratic media theory. The study concludes with a discussion of the inadequacies of liberal democratic media theory and an argument for the utility of a cultural historical approach.