Citizen Journalism: The Case for Including Homeless People
Matthew Cardinale, Georgia State University
Participation in media environments—both as consumers and producers—is increasingly central to civic life in the United States. However, the most disadvantaged citizens are almost always excluded from these forms of public life. This project will analyze and support the “Media Empowerment Group in Atlanta” (MEGA) project convened by the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. The MEGA project brings homeless individuals and independent media agencies into conversation about local media content and community needs, and encourages inclusion and civic engagement through the production of citizen-journalism—especially photography. The program is designed to increase the media literacy and fluency of this population, and in the process decrease their isolation from and de facto invisibility within electronically-mediated publics. The research has three components: (1) a baseline study to examine the relationship between the use of media by homeless people and their levels of civic participation, knowledge, and efficacy; (2) a series of workshops that will educate, involve, and empower homeless clients at the Task Force by combining media content examination and discussion, media critique, and media production; (3) interviews with participants to document changes in their use of and relationship to media—particularly independent media—as well as their civic knowledge, efficacy, and participation in relation to the project. This work will contribute to the training manual being developed for the MEGA project, with the expectation that this model can be replicated in other cities.