Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Anne Osborne


Credibility, Digital media, Journalism, News, Photojournalism, User-generated content

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study examines the perceived credibility of professional photojournalism in context to the usage of User-Generated Content (UGC) when compared across digital news and social media platforms, by individual news consumers in the United States employing a Q methodology experiment. The literature review studies source credibility as the theoretical framework through which to begin; however, using an inductive design, the data may indicate additional patterns and themes. Credibility as a news concept has been studied in terms of print media, broadcast and cable television, social media, and inline news, both individually and between genres. Very few studies involve audience perceptions of credibility, and even fewer are concerned with visual images.

Using online Q methodology software, this experiment was given to 100 random participants who sorted a total of 40 images labeled with photographer and platform information. The data revealed that audiences do discern the source of the image, in both the platform and the photographer, but also take into consideration the category of news image in their perception of the credibility of an image. The conclusions in this study reveal UGC is an important aspect of our media ecosystem, photographs are deemed more credible when the photographer and the platform are identified as professional. Future research examining source credibility from the audience’s perception utilizing a variety of research methods provides additional opportunities to understand the UGC/Professional phenomenon.


Open Access