Linda Jean Kenix of University of Canterbury in New Zealand presented the results of a study of Samoa Topix at ISOJ.
The study,with Christine Daviault, asked the question, Is this the future of online news? An examination of Samoa Topix.
Topix describes itself as a place for people to share and talk about the news.
The about page says ”Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the information and discussions that matter to them.” Topix ”redefines what it means to create, edit, share and make the news.”
The researchers explored how far Samoa Topix was a forum for news for a country with a patchy record in press freedom and when many Samoans live abroad.
They found that the level of debate on the site “wasn’t pretty” said Kenix. The more discussion there was on a story, the more nasty the discussion became.
The forum were largely a space to voice ethnic views and overwhelming reliance on racial slurs, they found.
Only about a quarter of the content was news and there was no evidence of the forum generating news content.
Rather, the researchers found that stories mainly functioned as a catalyst for people to vent.
Moreover, many of the news stories on Samoa Topix did not relate to Samoa.
And there was very little overlap with the main Samoan newspaper, the Samoa Observer, and the content on Samoa Topix.
Kenix concluded by suggesting that simply creating spaces for people to make the news does not mean that this is what will actually happen.