New Frames on Crisis: Citizen Journalism Changing the Dynamics of Crisis Communication

November 2011 (VOL. 29, NO. 3)

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On October 20, 2007, wildfires began in Malibu, California, and over the next 19 days, more than 20 blazes ignited throughout the region from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County. Cumulatively, the 2007 Southern California wildfires destroyed nearly 2,250 homes, burned more than 500,000 acres of land, and caused massive evacuations (Sutton, Palen, and Shklovski, 2008). In this study, our objective is to illustrate the role employed by RimoftheWorld.net as a first communicator and citizen journalism website, the role and patterns of information seeking by community members experiencing the wildfires, and the possible impact of citizen journalism on the understanding and framing of crisis. The findings may also improve crisis and disaster planning and response by providing heretofore underexamined and underutilized information about citizen journalism and new media platforms.