Lifeofyvonne and screenshots of gossip

Citizen Journalists of Scandal: Navigating truth and fiction on Dutch juice channel lifeofyvonne

10 minutes to read
Michelle Saris

While in the past celebrity gossip in The Netherlands was mainly spread through magazines such as Privé and television programs such as RTL Boulevard, gossip channels on social media platforms now attract hundreds of thousands of followers. The owners of these channels look at themselves as whistleblowers who are doing a very important job by telling – what they think – is the truth and by exposing celebrities.

It could even be argued that Lifeofyvonne and other gossip (juice) channels are the citizen journalists of the gossip world. But how exactly do these gossip channels fit into this concept of citizen journalism and how do these channels contribute to the blurring lines between truth and fiction? In the Dutch context, the term 'juice channels' refers to these gossip channels, derived from the 'Dutch' term 'juice kanalen,' which translates to 'juice channels' in English.

This article will explore this by first delving into the concept of citizen journalism in a digital society. Furthermore, it will discuss the practices of juice channels through the case study of juice channel Lifeofyvonne. Having explained these concepts, the article will examine how Lifeofyvonne fits into the idea of citizen journalism and what its implications are for the line between truth and fiction.

What is citizen journalism?

As Wall (2015) mentions in her article, there has never been agreed on one specific definition for citizen journalism. Therefore, this article defines citizen journalism as follows: citizen journalism is news that is made by people outside of mainstream media organisations and who are not considered to be professional journalists (Miller, 2019; Dangerfield, n.d.). Citizen journalism is also known under the terms ‘participatory journalism’ and ‘community journalism’ (Wall, 2015; Miller, 2019), but many researchers argue that these terms do not adequately capture the phenomenon (Cottle, 2014, as cited in Wall, 2015).

It is important to note that this article will focus on digital citizen journalism as this best fits the topic of juice channels on social media platforms. Contrary to traditional journalism, citizen journalists value advocacy over objectivity, interpretation over fact-based reporting, and community over conflict (Miller, 2019). This fits with the idea that citizen journalists usually act when existing news media journalists do not completely meet the informational needs of their audience (Miller, 2019).

Citizen journalists value advocacy over objectivity, interpretation over fact-based reporting, and community over conflict. 

The origin of citizen journalism has often been attributed to the South Korean platform OhmyNews which was founded in the year 2000 (Dangerfield, n.d.; Albarado, 2012). Its founder, Oh Yeon-ho, created the slogan “Every citizen is a reporter” for the platform because he was dissatisfied with the South Korean Press (Albarado, 2012). Later, Twitter established itself as an emerging platform for citizen journalists in countries where the platform is available. Especially during the Iranian presidential elections in 2009, it became clear that social media platforms are capable of circumventing government censorship in countries such as Iran (Dangerfield, n.d.).

It is important to acknowledge that citizen journalism plays out very differently in the Global North than in the Global South due to governmental censorship and the fact that certain social media platforms are banned in certain countries, e.g., Twitter in China. However, as this is not so relevant to the topic of this specific study, there will not be delved further into this idea.

Implications of (digital) citizen journalism

Digital media platforms have made it much easier to participate in citizen journalism as every single user can create and post content or information online about something they witnessed or have come to learn about that they think is newsworthy. This connects closely with the concept of user-generated content (UGC) (Wall, 2015), but citizen journalism is more specific to news whereas UGC refers to all content on social media platforms generated by users.

Citizen journalism has disrupted traditional news-media ecosystems heavily as it challenges the representativeness of information flows from these traditional news-media outlets. Citizen journalists tend to be better at community representativeness than traditional news outlets and they also have the power to set a more inclusive and diverse agenda (Miller, 2019).

Traditional news outlets have never been very enthusiastic about citizen journalism. Some outlets used UGC to make their news reporting somewhat participatory, but most traditional news outlets want to keep participation by the public low and, most importantly, on their terms. Some outlets even harshly criticised citizen journalists to be unethical, untrustworthy, too subjective, or of no real news value (Wall, 2015). Nonetheless, citizen journalism has become a very important part of news gathering as the world would be missing events without citizens reporting these events on social media platforms (Wall, 2015).

Issues with Citizen Journalism

As previously mentioned, Miller (2019) found that citizen journalists value advocacy over objectivity, just like they value interpretation over fact-based reporting. This lack of objectivity is exactly what can be seen as a limit of citizen journalism. This is also one of the biggest concerns of the traditional news outlets. Usually, there is also a lack of clear or reliable sources in content published by citizen journalists.

The more important and legitimate this type of news reporting becomes, the more vital this lack of accountability of sources becomes (Dangerfield, n.d.). Contrary to traditional news, citizen journalists treat unofficial sources as experts (Miller, 2019). Because of this, many students and non-skeptics think that citizen journalistic content is as credible as traditional journalistic content. Noteworthy is that Carr et al. (2014) found that audiences who are skeptical of traditional news media tend to trust citizen journalism more than these traditional outlets.

Another issue with citizen journalism is that the enthusiasm that arises through citizen journalism blurs the lines between the role of a reporter and a vigilante (Dangerfield, n.d.). Because of this, there should be a form of self-regulation to refrain people from descending into wanting collective justice for someone, also known as cancel culture on digital platforms.

Practices of juice channels

Juice channels are online gossip channels. Juice channels are usually active on Instagram or YouTube and they post juicy, but dubious gossip about Dutch celebrities, also known as BN’ers (Beheydt, 2022). Juice channels often contribute to the idea of cancel culture, as the gossip that is posted is usually quite damaging to the celebrity’s reputation. Cancel culture is the process of publicly calling someone out for something offensive they said or did, and then effectively ending their career through boycotting their work. It has become a prominent tool of social justice on social media platforms (Romano, 2020).

What is so interesting about juice channels is the way they obtain their information. Juice channels often claim that they got the juice from an insider, but the channels never enclose who these insiders are. Because of these insiders, juice channels are very quick when it comes to finding out about new gossip and then sharing it online before the traditional gossip press can even get to it (Beheydt, 2022). Therefore, traditional gossip journalists often accuse juice channels of not properly checking their sources and posting too hastily. Traditional media values fact-checking and emphasise its importance (NOS, 2022).

Juice channels often claim that they got the juice from an insider, but the channels never enclose who these insiders are.

Juice channels such as juicechannel__ claim that they exist because they feel like the traditional media are too mild and that these do not share the whole truth. Many juice channels see themselves as whistleblowers, but looking at it ethically, there is a thin line between being a vigilante considering the concepts of cancel culture and privacy.

For a long time, juice channels were not taken seriously by both the media and the public. However, when Dutch tv-presenter Tim Hofman published his BOOS episode about sexual assault allegations during The Voice of Holland, the media had to start taking the juice channels more seriously as they already hinted at these allegations before the episode was launched (NOS, 2022; Beheydt, 2022). Because of this, the public also started thinking of them more as legitimate.

Popularity of juice channels

Yvonne Coldeweijer, also known as Lifeofyvonne on Instagram, is the most popular Dutch juice channel. As of January 22, 2024, she has 836.000 Instagram followers, even though her account is private. Coldeweijer mostly publishes her juice through Instagram stories and then creates a highlight on her account where you can rewatch it after the 24 hours on her story have expired. Recent popular topics on her account were, amongst others, the breakup of Jade and Gio, and the trial of Thijs Römer.  

Figure 1: lifeofyvonne's Instagram page.

Channels such as Coldeweijer’s are viral. But why? First of all, everyone has social media nowadays, meaning it is an easy and quick way to access the latest gossip. The consumption of this gossip is quick, but everyone also forgets about it quickly because the next juice is also published soon after. Furthermore, celebrity gossip has always been popular and that has not changed. People are always interested in stories, especially the true, unfiltered version of celebrities who usually show a polished version of themselves (Hofman, n.d.)

Is Lifeofyvonne a citizen journalist in the gossip world?

Having discussed the concept of citizen journalism and the practices of juice channels, they connect quite closely. Both citizen journalists and juice channels are often criticised for not properly using or crediting sources. When looking specifically at how Coldeweijer does this, it becomes clear that her sources usually directly message her on Instagram. Coldeweijer refers to these insiders as ‘spies’ (‘spionnen’ in Dutch). In Figure 2 a story about Jade and Gio’s breakup is shown. It claims that multiple spies (‘Meerdere spionnen’) have told Coldeweijer about Gio cheating on Jade last year before they broke up.

Figure 2: Instagram story about Jade and Gio's breakup.

Furthermore, the motivations for publishing content are similar. Both citizen journalists and juice channels believe that traditional media outlets do not meet the audiences’ informational needs anymore. They try to play into this by setting the agenda for news – or gossip – themselves and by publishing unfiltered content that they believe to be the truth.

Moreover, traditional media outlets have started using the content of both citizen journalists and juice channels to build on further. The approach of traditional media in this, however, is that they delve further into the news or gossip these previously mentioned non-professional outlets published. Traditional outlets try to make a more complete story out of it and use the principle of fair hearing, meaning that the accused celebrities get a chance to tell their part of the story before it is published. Coldeweijer very rarely talks to the people involved in the case.

She has done so one time in the highlights that are currently available on her profile. This was in the case of Noor de Groot who was accused of cheating on her husband Sander with Thijs Römer. Coldeweijer called with Sander to discuss the topic and Sander admitted that he knew about one time when Noor cheated on him. This shows that while Lifeofyvonne sources are dubious, she is right quite often.

When looking at the definition this study uses for citizen journalism, juice channels fit into the concept. Juice channels share news while not being part of a mainstream media outlet. Many people do not consider them to be professional journalists either because of the practices they use to obtain and publish the gossip.

Taking all of this into consideration, it can be concluded that juice channels such as Lifeofyvonne can be considered citizen journalists of scandal.  

Truth and fiction: blurry lines

Juice channels most certainly contribute to the blurring lines between truth and fiction. One of the biggest issues with juice channels is the fact that their sources – or spies, as Lifeofyvonne, calls them – are anonymous and that there seems to be a lack of fact-checking from the juice channel’s side. Nonetheless, Coldeweijer tends to be right in most cases, which is proved by the fact that Sander admits to his wife Noor cheating on him and the research Tim Hofman carried out about The Voice of Holland. This can be a bit confusing to the audience as to whether they should believe Life of Yvonne’s content.

Because of uncredited sources and the lack of consistent fact-checking, it often is unclear where the line between truth and sensationalised fiction lies. This especially was the case before claims such as the sexual assault allegations were verified by Tim Hofman, who is considered a professional journalist. Many people, including traditional media outlets, considered the claims made by juice channels to be made-up stories to create a sensation. While the stories published by Lifeofyvonne are often still sensationalised in the sense that parts of them are exaggerated, they are considered to contain a grain of truth. Nonetheless, because of this notion of sensationalism, misinformation is spread easily, contributing to an unclear image of what is truth and what is fictionalised.

As previously mentioned, lifeofyvonne posts all her juice on Instagram stories. These stories disappear after 24 hours and her account is private, meaning it can be difficult to verify what she has said about certain juices. This too contributes to the spread of misinformation, blurring the lines between truth and fiction even further.

Final thoughts

This study examined whether juice channels can be considered citizen journalists. It found that they both have very similar practices of obtaining and sharing information. Citizen journalists and juice channels often are unclear about their sources or use sources that are not necessarily deemed reliable.

Moreover, citizen journalists and juice channels have very similar motivations for sharing content as they both feel like traditional outlets do not entirely meet the informational needs of the public, and some of them even consider themselves whistleblowers who are morally obliged to share the information.

However, their practices are leading to blurry lines between what is the truth and what is sensationalised truth and thus has become fiction. Nonetheless, lifeofyvonne is attracting audiences all across the Netherlands and Belgium with her juice, and she can be considered the greatest citizen journalist of scandal.


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