Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Veenstra, Aaron


With emerging content forums blurring the distinctions between journalistic paradigms, this study helps illuminate those which best promote alternative practice. A content analysis of Deepwater Horizon oil spill coverage compared three platforms for online citizen journalism: corporate (CNN iReport), alternative (Indymedia), and independent blogs. News stories were coded for sources, links, author-reader interaction, mobilizing information, tone for the liable parties' ability and intent in handling the disaster, and contestation of official information. Results show that Indymedia was the most alternative in inclusion of mobilizing information, critical tone, contestation of mainstream versions, ratio of alternative links to mainstream, and total usage of alternative sources. iReport engendered the greatest rates of community via interaction, while also averaging the highest ratio of alternative sources. The blogs split on nearly all metrics, as one rated highly in every category and the other near last. This analysis determines which platforms are most likely to cultivate disaster news that stands as alternative to, and not extension of, the mainstream. This study makes a contribution to the theory of alternative media and is the first to compare citizen journalism sites against one another in measuring their adherence to the alternative paradigm, and its examination of CNN's citizen-report model also represents a novel contribution. The findings discussed may help direct citizens as they reach out to online communities in times of disaster.




This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.