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May 10, 2019 | Andrew Hurst

Dr. Del Guynes hooded by Dr. Kristin Drogos, Assistant Professor (Left) and
Dr. Inga Musselman, Vice President of Academic Affairs and University Provost (Right),
during the University of Texas at Dallas Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

Citizen journalism is defined as the involvement of non-professionals using the Internet to report newsworthy information, using various forms of devices and social media platforms. The increased use of smartphones and internet access has cultivated this phenomenon, removing barriers to the spread of news and information previously limited to professional journalists. With a phone in hand, anyone in the right place at the right time can share breaking stories or create a public dialogue via social media.

But, what are underlying factors that drive people to participate in citizen journalism? What motivates ordinary citizens to pull out their smartphones and either record an event or express their personal views?

In researching answers to those questions, Professor Del Guynes, Ph.D. , who serves as the Dean of the College of Music and Communication Arts (CMCA) at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) , recently completed his dissertation at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) , titled “What Drives Citizen Journalism in Malaysia? A Reasoned Action Method Approach” . His research project was selected in April of this year as the winner of the “ 2018 Best Dissertation Award ” for the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) from UTD . One of seven schools in the UTD university structure, Dr. Guynes’ award from ATEC was one of only seven Best Dissertation awards selected from a field of over 240 dissertations approved at UTD in 2018.

Dr. Guynes spent much of his childhood years in Malaysia with his Assemblies of God missionary parents and has had a lifelong attraction to the culture and social dynamics of that diverse country. Malaysia, with a marked increase in citizen journalism over the past decade, has experienced social and political change in ways that resemble the Arab Spring of 2011, in which political changes in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East were fueled largely by the contributions of citizen journalists. Dr. Guynes was interested in researching whether citizen journalists in Malaysia would have the same impact as those in other regions.

“I was interested in citizen journalism initially from a religious perspective,” he says. “I wanted to analyze the nexus of a person’s religious persuasion and their willingness to participate in citizen journalism, potentially speaking out against established governmental authority.” After encouragement from his mentor, however, Dr. Guynes decided to take a broader look at motivations for citizen journalists using what is called the “ Reasoned Action Model” (RAM) or “ Theory of Reasoned Action ”, which analyzes the links between beliefs, attitudes, norms, and behavioral intent in individuals. “It’s a model that can be applied to any social human behavior, but seldom has it been used to research motives for participation in media and communication, and never, that I could find, to analyze participation in citizen journalism.”

SAGU Dean Wins Best Dissertation from University of Texas
From Left to Right: Dr. Juan Gonzalez-Dean of UTD Graduate Education & Associate
Provost, Dr. Angela Lee-Assistant Professor in ATEC & Degree Mentor, Dr. Del Guynes-
SAGU’s Dean of CMCA, Dr. Kimberly Knight-Associate Professor & ATEC
Dean’s Representative

Using this theoretical structure, Dr. Guynes administered an online survey to 2,020 respondents in Malaysia to identify some of the key underlying motives for participating in citizen journalism. There were a few survey results that particularly stuck out to him. Along with having increased access to technology, one of the primary motivations for Malaysian citizens was simply having the capacity and ability to express their views and observations about government policies and elected officials. In other words, “just because they could”. “It made them feel empowered,” shared Dr. Guynes.

“The research showed they really didn’t have much conviction that what they had to say about their elected officials and government policies was going to make a difference, but they certainly felt good saying it. It could be viewed as a cathartic experience.”

Dr. Guynes says that he hopes the results of his study will enable future researchers to advance the study of citizen journalism, which is now a global phenomenon.

In addition to receiving the award, he had the opportunity to present his research at the 5th World Conference on Media and Mass Communication in Malaysia (MEDCOM) .

While Dr. Guynes received some noteworthy accolades and opportunities as a result of his doctoral work, he shared that, “personally, it was the process of defending and completing the project more than the findings produced by the research itself that I found most satisfying—understanding the complexity of the RAM model, having to apply statistics at a much deeper level than I had previously; things I had not experienced before,” he says. The journey “reinforced values that I’ve been taught throughout life—you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and plod forward, and good things can happen.”

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The university was established in 1927, and now offers more than 70 associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus or online. More information is available at

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