Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why, oh why did the Rocky Mountain News die?

Denver's Rocky Mountain News shut shop today, a little before its sesquicentennial birthday. Here's Frosty Woolridge, the Political Issues Examiner:
A newspaper remains the pulse and the life blood of a community. Rocky’s demise means we all lost a bit of ourselves. Yes, we gnashed our teeth at the editorial page writers with whom we disagreed, but we cared and we jumped into the discussion.

The big question: why did the Rocky die? Who killed it? How did they kill it? Why did they kill it?

If you look around the country—the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, Dallas Morning News and several other papers teeter on the edge of extinction.


For Mr. Woolridge's provocative why, click here.

Jai Ho to America's newspaper of record which goes "hyperlocal" on Monday

If you're still a doubting thomas after visiting with this blog for a while, here's an eye-opener.

A gasping New York Times is going hyperlocal to celebrate the passion of the unpaid, untrained guy with the digital camera.

Yes, the Times has embraced citizen journalism.

Is that a good thing for my favorite newspaper? Time will tell. For now, here's the Washington Post:
On Monday, the will announce plans for hyperlocal sites throughout New York and New Jersey. The new online channel is called The Local and will blend citizen journalism and staff reports...
CUNY journalism dean Jeff Jarvis' students will be part of the Times' hyperlocalism initiative.
... [Mr. Jarvis says] the new initiative will reach out to a new population of advertisers, the plumbers and pizza places that don't tend to market themselves in the pages of the NYT. Much has been made of the fact that many newspapers have neglected to target smaller businesses and have lost out to online directories. To help the NYT catch up, Jarvis hopes to bring in business students from Baruch College to help map out the best ways to bring in those new advertisers.
I say to the Times, Jai Ho! (to borrow a 2008 "top HollyWord")

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Community blogs, "a new breed of watchdog"

Julie Fanselow sees in community blogs "the new wave of citizen journalism."

In a six-page piece in the Winter 2008 issue of National Civic Review Ms. Fanselow profiles several community-centric blogs, some of which "have a proudly adversarial relationship to governments and officials they monitor."

Find her article here (pdf 71.4 kb).

"The future lies in alternative journalism, not in citizen journalism"

Douglas Biggers, who co-founded the Tucson Weekly 25 years back, roots for the alternative papers to emerge as "the future of journalism" even as he contrasts them with blogs.

On alternative journalism:
When the Tucson Weekly first appeared in February 1984, there were about 30 similar newspapers in mainly larger cities that loosely banded together in a trade group called the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Now numbering about 130, alt-weeklies are a vital part of any city's media landscape, providing a distinct point of view and a personality that was in many ways entirely unique prior to the rise of the Web and the blogosphere.

For the most part, alt-weeklies have maintained a commitment to investigative journalism and a willingness to pursue the kinds of stories that have been neglected by daily newspapers. Regarding cultural coverage, alt-weeklies have often led the way in promoting and engaging with music, theater, dance and the visual arts, providing coverage that has been essential to nurturing those art forms in their respective communities. And the alt-weeklies have been the incubator for a unique and precious art form, the alternative comic (which has recently come under threat as papers cut their budgets in response to declining revenues--but fortunately, not at the Tucson Weekly). These papers matter, and they may well be the future of journalism in this country as the dailies face an increasingly dim horizon.

On citizen journalism:
"Citizen journalism" may have its place as practiced in the blogosphere, but if we are to substantively hold our politicians and business leaders accountable for their actions, we need to ensure the preservation of the institution of the press and those who constitute its foot soldiers. Whether it's a commitment to some form of "professionalism"--which can be debated, perhaps--or the grounding and depth that comes from a kind of collective journalistic memory and ethos, nothing can replace the importance of the role that a free and capable press plays in maintaining some semblance of a democratic society that is responsive to the citizenry. Without the press, the likely result is a cacophony of random voices without focus or form, which is akin to the voice of a mob and a clear detriment to a civil society.
Find Mr. Biggers' article here.

To make money with news, "give away what's abundant... charge for what is scarce"

Barbara K. Iverson writes from Chicago:

The weekend of February 21-22 was a doubleheader. It wasn't the Cubs v. Sox but emotions ran high at several points. The Sunday event was the sold-out Chicago Journalism Townhall at the Hotel Allegro (formerly the smoke-filled Bismark Hotel, site of many a political intrigue).

Convened by Ken Davis, former program director at WBEZ, for "working journalists, out-of-work and under-employed journalists,citizen journalists, aspiring journalists," the 13-person panel came together to talk about "the way people consume news, and the way it’s delivered, changes almost every day."

With old economic models failing, and new ones not yet fully realized, the panelists represented quite a spectrum of opinion on the topic. I was on the Chicago-centric panel with Lee Bey, John Calloway, Thom Clark, Geoff Dougherty, Robert Feder, Ben Goldberger, Carlos Hernandez-Gomez, Andrew Huff, Alex Kotlowitz, Carol Marin, Michael Miner, Salim Muwakkil, and Eric Zorn (bios here.)

As the townhall began with standing room only, Ken Davis asked, "Is there a chance online and print will find common ground?" Before the discussion had gone very far, John Calloway, who worked in radio before television and at City News Bureau, cut to the chase by saying, "Let's assume that newspapers are dead..."

Some of highlights of the afternoon included Geoff Dougherty's assertion that one could run a newsroom with a $2 million newsroom, which garnered nods of approval from onliners as well as snorts of disbelief from old line newsies. Another statement that divided the room was an admonition directed to Ben Goldberger and other online publishers to "stop stealing content."

It was clear that for some in the room link economy was more about Oscar Meyer products than a key component of reputation ranking, social networking, and post-scarcity economics. To prepare for the panel, being an academic and early-adopter blogger, I decided to focus on two things. First, to contrast the assumptions of an economy of scarcity with those in an economy of abundance to bring up the idea that giving away content can be an effective strategy for making money. And then to identify various economic models that are being used by news organizations, large and small, and have examples of these models.

My 21st century economics in a nutshell:
Thomas Jefferson noted that an infinite or abundant resource, once created, costs nothing to give away and the original creator retains the original.

Give away what’s abundant, say information or news, to increase your market and build your reputation. Charge for what is scarce, and make money from that. For news, timeliness or in-depth coverage might be the scarce aspects.
Ken Davis stopped my list of models at five, though he has since apologized as there was a segment of the audience who wanted to hear all of them. The eight are listed below and you can read more detail if interested:
  • Collaborate and syndicate
  • Non-profit funding from grants and foundations
  • Local pay, in an NPR-like model
  • Get a patron
  • Hybrid model combines features of other models
  • Post news story “bids”and take reader “pledges” and donations to fund stories. If the story is picked up by a news organization, donors are repaid.
  • Begin mobile or online, evolve to print
  • Open source or “King Gillette” model
Toward the end of the session, two interesting interchanges took place. Eric Zorn was one of the panelists who was checking tweets on his iPhone during the session, and he asked one of the numerous twitterers to identify himself and to repeat his twitter out loud. It was interesting to see how Twitter background conversations emerge during these kind of large group sessions.

One of the final speakers was Brad Flora of, a news aggregator where users can vote news stories up or down, as well as add their own content. Flora turned the content theft accusation on its head, noting that when Windycitizen broke a story about a confrontation between a police officer and a man on the CTA, the story was picked up by the Chicago Tribune, where it ran without mentioning Windycitizen.

The Saturday session was BarCamp NewsInnovation, a sort of unconference that aimed to bring together journalism students, journalists, and programmers and technologists. About 30 folks met all day at Medill's downtown facility where organizer Jason Kristufek responded to tweeted questions about how journalists and progammers communicate with each other. "We don't have a ton of answers but we do need to come up with a basic literacy and understanding to communicate and collaborate well enough to get the best possible end result."

A snow storm kept me away from BarCamp so I didn't bring it up on Sunday, though I wrote about it as it was happening. Gordan Mayer from Community Media Workshop in Chicago noted "... how messed up and indicative of the two separate worlds of "old" media and "new" news that the Barcamp event never even got a mention Sunday afternoon..."

Barbara Iverson blogs at CurrentBuzz and ChicagoTalks
Also see: Panel dwells on the future of Chicago's journalism

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 pioneers credibility ratings for citizen reports, the citizen journalism site, has introduced a system to measure the credibility of its reports after, in the words of CEO Amra Tareen, "recent abuses on other news sites threatened to undermine the important work of most citizen contributors."

From a media release (pdf 24.2 kb) today:, the worldwide civic and citizen news hub, today announced it has completed testing of its Report Credibility rating meter and has deployed it across the site in beta. Allvoices' Report Credibility Rating is a simple indicator found at the bottom of every news story which helps the allvoices community sort through uncensored citizen media reports to determine their trustworthiness. As an un-edited and un-filtered reporting platform, allvoices Report Credibility ratings helps users find the news that matters to them. Report credibility is determined by community interaction and response, reporter reputation and the power of the Allvoices intelligent news analysis platform.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Journalists must include in their work opportunities for conversation"

Are you a journalist wondering how to adapt to a Web 2.0 world?

Nicole "Nikki" Usher, Harvard alumna and doctoral student at the University of Southern California, suggests that you combine "the best parts of the civic journalism and public journalism movements and sync these up with the possibilities of the Web."

Here is Ms. Usher's pitch for journalists and their employers to catch up with the times:
1. Journalists need to understand how the Web and multimedia goals will work within their own organizations. News organizations need to clearly communicate how these Web goals will influence the work production cycle.

2. Journalists at all levels of the news organization should believe that they can contribute to the multimedia vision of their organization. The future of the newsroom is also in your hands, and thinking like this forces journalists to think multi-dimensionally.

3. Journalists are not alone in the newsroom. Even if journalists themselves cannot think about how to make their work relevant to multiplatform content, someone else in the news organization can. Most of your organizations have people on staff that can help you brainstorm, even if you can't. Multimedia training is also about making new connections across your organization.

4. Silos, departmental rivalries, and departments that don't communicate with each other cannot exist if multimedia initiatives are to succeed.

5. Journalists no longer control the distribution of the content they produce. This is a very scary thought for many journalists, but the reality is that once something is published (usually on Web sites), it belongs to the audience of readers and becomes part of a conversation about the news.

6. Journalists need to rethink and reposition themselves the leader of this new conversation, which includes everyone from the traditional water cooler chat to bloggers.

"Advocacy and public voice need to be part of journalism"

In her latest column Veronica Hendrix, radio producer and treasurer of the Black Journalists Association of Southern California, dwells on her understanding of journalism.
For purists like me, journalism is more than delivering content by any means necessary, although that is what it appears to be morphing into. Journalism is a craft of conveying news to an audience responsibly, objectively, and ethically. In J-school, journalists are taught to seek truth and report it as fully as possible; act independently; and minimize harm to those affected by their actions. Those are great guiding principles. But there is an advocacy and public voice aspect to journalism that needs to be part of the model as well. Not only does the public demand it, technology has given it license to soar by the touch of a button.

The lines of what is and is not journalism have become blurred. Our world view as the purveyors of information is not the only view. We are at a juncture where we have to engage the public in new ways. As an industry, we can’t afford to be linear in our approach to telling stories and delivering content or we will become irrelevant.

Panel dwells on the future of Chicago's journalism

On Sunday Chicago Public Radio hosted a townhall to discuss the future of Chicago's journalism. Ken Davis, a former director of Chicago Municipal Television, moderated.

The rather large panel, comprising journalists recovering, recovered, and recovery-proof, indulged citizen and civic reporting as expected.

Find the podcast here.

Chi-Town Daily News editor Geoff Dougherty, who was a panelist, pitched "a $2 million online news organization [which] could replace the local-news reporting function of a Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune." Read his provocative post here.

Barbara Iverson, who teaches at Columbia College Chicago, was also a panelist. She has promised to share an account of the event for this blog in the next few days. Watch this space!

Update: See Ms. Iverson's dispatch here, "Give away what's abundant... charge for what is scarce"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Criminal case against Orkut activist frays freedom of expression in India

Today freedom of expression lost a case in India.

D. Ajit, 19, found out what "reasonable restrictions" in a liberal democracy can mean.

Mr. Ajit, a student from Kerala, had initiated an Orkut community critical of the Shiv Sena, a Mumbai-based extremist party unapologetic about its "moral policing."

In August of 2008 Thane police, acting upon a complaint by a Shiv Sena official, slapped him with a criminal case.

The case against Mr. Ajit was not for libel, even though Indian law recognizes criminal libel (Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code) in addition to civil. Curiously, the case was for "criminal intimidation" (Section 506) and for "outraging religious feelings" (295A).

Mr. Ajit asked the Supreme Court of India to throw out the criminal case under constitutional Article 19 which guarantees a freedom of expression.

Today the court declined to do so. The Hindu reports:
A Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam took a serious view of the issue saying that the student of Information Technology should have realised what he was doing.

"You should not have indulged in such activity. You are a student of IT. You are doing something on internet and you should know about it," the Bench said refusing the plea of his lawyer that there was any malafide intention in putting the contents on the internet.
The case tested the balance between expressive freedom and other freedoms, particularly in a context of social media activism.

Who won? It's not clear.

What is clear is that the freedom of expression lost, even though India's constitution (pdf 1.09 mb) guarantees six fundamental rights and an expressive freedom which is subject to "reasonable restrictions."

Historically India's courts have accorded a high place for expression in the hierarchy of freedoms, but as Mr. Ajit's unfortunate affair shows, social media activists should expect the state to use a myriad of laws other than libel.

Another thought: At issue in any future civil demand from the Shiv Sena would be whether political party members are public officials. In 1994 the Supreme Court of India had held that public libel plaintiffs cannot get damages while performing official duties unless they proved the defendant's “reckless disregard for the truth.” (The court did not, significantly, use the terms "malice" or "actual malice" from the American tradition).

"The future of newspapers is not the same as the future of journalism"

During participatory technological revolutions (like the one we're living through) it's easy to confuse "medium" with "journalism" with "content."

Fortunately there is Andrew Reilly, the "Chicago Media Industry Examiner," to clear things up.
To say things like blogs, streaming multimedia, citizen journalism and the like will fundamentally change journalism is akin to saying cheaper and better tools will redefine home improvement; while the implements make the process easier, the craft and end result remain essentially the same.
  1. Something newsworthy happens or new information becomes available.
  2. Someone with the means to disseminate said news or information builds some type of article, blurb or full-fledged story.
  3. The article, blurb or story is distributed. Wait for step one to happen again.
Neither movable type nor Moveable Type had the power to alter this process...

3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists

A few amateur reporters using Twitter, Flickr and GroundReport became stars during the Mumbai terrorist attacks of Thanksgiving 2008 with riveting, even insightful, coverage.

Vinukumar Ranganathan, a software engineer, was one such star. In an interview with Kavitha Iyer of Mumbai's Indian Express
today, Mr. Ranganathan offers a prediction for the future of newsgathering.
News, perhaps collected by unskilled folk, will be a huge source of raw material for mainstream media agencies to tap into. Once 3G comes in, it will actually be affordable to send live photographs and even videos from cellphones to people across the world.
See the Wikipedia entry for 3G here
Also read, "
Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai"

Deaf activist says, "Train citizens with the skills necessary to be effective reporters"

Brein McNamara, who is deaf, is a winner of the 2008 Knight News Challenge.

Mr. NcNamara is also an activist trying to get for the deaf minority "equitable access to the tools of citizen journalism in American Sign Language." Here is why he supports citizen journalism:
Many everyday people have looked at their communities and tried to answer for the lack of information that exists. This is especially important when such a lack is a root cause at the persistence of many other problems in the community. This is why I wish to step up; something needs to be done. This is what forms citizen journalism, those who step up to answer the needs of their community.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The only Indonesian member of Clinton's media entourage is a blogger

Nenden Novianti, the Indonesian blogger who is embedded with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's entourage, edits content for Jakarta's Viva News U Report.

From her interview with the Jakarta Globe today:
So you were the only Indonesian journalist allowed to travel with Clinton’s traveling news correspondents?
Yes, there were 16 of them and me. All the big names, like Bloomberg. Andrea Mitchell from NBC was there. She was here in 1986 with Reagan. I was just like, “Hey, I’m a blogger”— “Oh yeah, a blogger,” they said. I had the official green pass. I could walk everywhere with her. I was in the van traveling around with all the other reporters from all over the world. There were a lot of experienced reporters. I was just glad to be there.
Ms. Novianti says U Report "is supported by the US Embassy. . . we are doing eight months in eight cities to promote blogging and citizen journalism."

This citizen journalism firm makes big deals

Cell Journalist is a media platform founded less than two years back by Parker Polidor, 32, and Colin Polidor, 29, in Nashville, Tennessee.

When it receives content from users of cell phones, the company's software "allows this breaking news content to be online or on-air in as little as 90 seconds."

But what makes Cell Journalist truly stand out is its recent commercial success.
In December, the company forged an agreement with media industry leader E.W. Scripps, extending its already existing contract with the Knoxville News Sentinel and Memphis Commercial Appeal to all 15 of Scripps' newspapers across nine states.

"The deal with Scripps shows that local media outlets are very serious about user-generated content," Parker Polidor says.

The company has similar deals with major players such as Raycom, Gatehouse Media, Young Broadcasting, Dispatch Publishing and Media General (representing more than 60 TV stations and 15 newspapers between them). While no current agreement exists with powerhouse Gannett Co., the Polidors remain optimistic about future deals.

"Currently, we are working with 40 media properties and expect this number to more than double in the next twelve months," Polidor says.

Citizen journalists who expose police corruption, beware of retaliation!

This story in Michigan Messenger should interest you regardless of whether you're a citizen journalist or you simply love your camera/Blackberry.

Diane Bukowski, a freelancer for the Michigan Citizen weekly published from Detroit, "was arrested and charged with five felony five felony counts of obstructing police officers while reporting from the scene of a fatal police chase."
Bukowski said that she was arrested as she stood photographing the scene of the crash, an officer seized her camera and erased pictures. (sic)
The ACLU alleges the police action was in retaliation for Ms. Bukowski's history of recording government corruption, including reporting on "allegations of illegal strip and cavity searches by police in southwest Detroit and the refusal of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to prosecute police involved in killings."

Read more here.

There are no more journalists: Demotix founder

Not long ago the London-based journalist Turi Munthe created Demotix, which "takes user-generated content and photographs from freelance journalists and amateurs, and markets them to the mainstream media."

Now the News published from Karachi attributes this quote to Mr. Munthe:
There are no more journalists. The internet and big businesses has killed them off.
More here.

Indian TV station offers prizes to citizen journalists for "news reality" programming

Amrita TV, a satellite channel based in India's southern state of Kerala, claims to have pioneered "news reality shows" based on citizen journalism.

Starting October of 2008, stories filed by 15 citizen reporters were broadcast Monday-Thursday over 64 episodes.

And on Sunday, the best of 5 finalists got cash prizes after their stories, categorized under "Investigation," "Story," "Crusader," "Anti-corruption," or "Special Story," were evaluated by a jury in Trivandrum.

One report said that "each of the five [finalist] citizen journalists held the jury and audiences spellbound with their amazing stories and scoops complemented by breathtaking footage, some being sting operations," adding that the contest was "a tightly fought grand finale."

A. Shaijumon, 27, a college lecturer from Kollam, took home the crown -- and a cash booty of 150,000 rupees (about $3100). Read more here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CCJIG invites non-members: Come say hello in Boston!

To acquaint non-members with our group I am reproducing below a brief profile which appears in AEJMC News (pdf 1.21 mb) of March 2009. We'd love to see new faces at the Boston convention August 4-8.
Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group
Head: Nikhil Moro, Central Michigan

Our interest group has emerged as AEJMC’s largest in 2008-09. We host scholars devoted to either public or participatory journalism. Of our 116 registered members 57 are female. Six of our members identify themselves as African-American, two as Asian-American, and twelve as International.

We are happy to report that thanks to our growing membership our budget is healthier than ever before. We are an active, welcoming group with a relatively young membership. We love new members!

Some of our members – those with an interest in civic journalism – explore the trend of professional reporters acting as participant observers (who might advance specific social agendas) rather than as dispassionate spectators. Such reporters recognize that “journalism has an obligation to public life – an obligation that goes beyond just telling the news or unloading lots of facts” (Pew Center). Academic interest in civic journalism was catalyzed by David Perry’s 2003 book titled The Roots of Civic Journalism and by other work by advocates such as Davis “Buzz”Merritt.

Other members of our group have an interest in “citizen journalism,” which is practiced by non-professionals who use a digital camera and a sharing spirit to observe events and record them on personal blogs, or on Twitter, iReport, CitizenSide and other such online forums. Unlike civic reporters, who are professionals, citizen journalists are not on the payroll of any legacy media organization. Typically, they are not even trained in jschool. Academic interest in citizen journalism pivots on the expositions of, among others, Mark Glaser, Jay Rosen, Dan Gillmor and Leonard Witt.

Many of our members are excited about technology-driven trends in journalism practice. In the last two years our group’s scholarship has addressed topics in civic engagement, pedagogical modeling, sources, transparency, perceptions of credibility, citizen journalism models, and political efficacy.

At the 2009 convention in Boston, we plan to build on that edifice as well as investigate new trends, such as topics in citizen/civic journalism in the 2008 presidential campaign season, newsroom projects, legal/ethical issues, the contrasts between crowdsourcing and “gatekeeping,” changes in the newspaper economy, media convergence, and use of polls and focus groups in civic reporting.

In Boston we plan to give away two “best paper” prizes of $151 each to a faculty member and a graduate student. Send us a paper! We also have slated two pre-convention workshops and about a dozen discussion panels. Details of our convention program and current discussions may be found at our blog

Monday, February 16, 2009

Asia's social media use shows what a big world it is (for citizen journalists too)

Did you know that 456 million Internet users in Asia, just under a third of the world's online population, are "actively consuming social media"?

I can claim to know because I spent some of this evening browsing a report which explores social media use (pdf 0.98 mb) in 12 Asian countries: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietman.

The report, by Ogilvy & Mather's direct marketing arm, OgilvyOne, does not describe a research method. It intends to help "brand marketers and digital consultants on how to design a social media strategy in Asia."

It contains some nuggets for folks interested in the social media's use in citizen journalism:

About Hong Kong (p. 19), the report expresses surprise that
political blogs or citizen journalism which are gathering pace in mainland China are practically non existent in Hong Kong. This is mainly attributed to a relatively open freedom of expression, as Hong Kongers don’t yet feel that they have to treasure or tap these new outlets to get heard.
In Thailand (p. 30), citizen journalism via social media has addressed
the demand for live news and the relative latency of traditional mainstream media. Big events such as the opposition coup in 2006 have seen socio-political blogs transform into powerful news-sharing sources. Blogs are an increasingly important part of the social media landscape in Thailand with 84% of internet users claiming to write or participate in a blog making it a key channel for word of outh. Twitter and Twitter-like micro-blogging services are yet to take off in Thailand though attempts are being made to elevate the profile particularly in the large cities with umours of Twitter-clones emerging such as
About Taiwan (p. 22) the report states,
In a country where sensationalism in traditional media channels is commonplace, citizen journalism is growing in Taiwan due to widespread dissatisfaction with the range and quality of traditional news sources. The proliferation of social media channels to express opinions, comment on the news, and share content, has brought about competition and altered the traditional business model of mainstream media. UDN and Chinatimes are at the forefront of this trend ith Apple Daily and Liberty Times also allowing commentary on their sites.
The report places the social media in six categories (p. 6): 1. Social networking platforms (e.g., Facebook, Orkut, Hi-5, Cyworld, Mixi, etc.); 2. Social bookmarking platforms (e.g., Wikipedia,, digg, etc.); 3. Content, applications & media (e.g., FlickR, YouTube, etc.); 4. Blogging platforms (e.g., Twitter, Blogger, Wordpress, etc.); 5. Social gaming (e.g., World of Warcraft, Ragnarok, etc.); and 6. Social connectivity tools (e.g., email, SMS, RSS feeds, instant messenger, and live chat).

My big surprise is to read the estimate of India's 2008 Internet penetration rate as 5.2 per cent (60 million Internet users in a population of nearly 1.15 billion), the lowest among the countries surveyed (p. 12).

Pakistan's is two times that at 10.4 per cent (17.5 million Internet users in a population of 167.76 million).

On the other hand, the report estimates Singapore's 2008 Internet penetration rate as 87.4 per cent (4.26 million Internet users in a population of a little more than 4.6 million), the highest among the countries surveyed.

China's 2008 Internet penetration rate is estimated as 19 per cent (253 million Internet users in a population of a little more than 1.33 billion).

On p. 7 the report notes that
traditional media entities have taken note and seized the potential of the interconnected-ness of the consumer worldwide. BBC is among many to create its YouTube channel, AOL has invested USD850m in Bebo not to mention entrepreneurial players in the region such as Li Ka Shing’s USD120m punt in Facebook, the launch of a dedicated YouTube channel in India and the many VC funded social media entities that are popping up in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Malaysia. The list goes on.
To repeat, the report does not describe its research method. Check out the whole colorful document, released about three weeks back, here (pdf 0.98 mb).

"Newspapers should use their brand online"

In the past, John Duncan, the former managing editor of London's Observer, has advised newspapers to not "strip resources from their print products to nurture websites."

Now Duncan is advising newspapers to keep their brand in order to hold their market niche. When all is said and done, citizen journalism cannot by definition benefit from a brand.

From the latest Deal:
"Journalists hate the word, but newspapers have great brand," Duncan says. "It's not fake. It's not a lie. Newspapers have an incredible relationship and substantial amount of trust with readers."

The problem has been applying that brand online. No less an authority than Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt has called the Internet a "cesspool" of misinformation, and has said the imprimatur of trusted "brands" is needed to help people sort the good data from the bad.

If brands do in fact have such value, newspapers may use their credibility with readers to get into new types of content, such as diet clubs or other areas that lie outside of news but appeal to popular interest. When the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News announced they would not deliver the paper seven days a week, the papers touted new digital efforts they hoped to expand, in addition to online news. These included Web sites, a social networking site for mothers, and, a nationwide venture that combines news coverage by journalists, high school coaches and players.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Canadian ruling on libel defense may affect citizen journalists

Today the Calgary Herald reports that the Supreme Court of Canada is set to rule on a new libel defense called "public interest responsible journalism."

The defense, which was upheld by an appeals court in Ontario more than a year back, allows journalists to "be protected from libel suits, even if they got some of the facts wrong, as long as they prove they acted responsibly."

Canada, like the other Commonwealth democracies, does not demand of public plaintiffs actual malice as the burden of proof. So the new defense, if upheld, may turn out to be particularly important. If upheld, the ruling would also have implications for citizen journalists, Canadian or not. I'm keeping watch -- will try to follow the story for this blog.

Why Brad Townsend likes citizen journalism

The Dallas Morning News writer narrates -- via a blog post -- a quick anecdote about the beginnings of a rudimentary "swarming investigation" which helped him fact-check a story. Check it out.

Citizen journalist's footage told of CO 3407

From yesterday's Buffalo (N.Y.) News:
Journalists weren’t the only ones who told the world about the tragic saga of Flight 3407. The disaster graphically demonstrated the emerging trend of citizen journalism.

Anthony Trigilio, a 19-year-old Clarence resident, became an international media star — at least for several hours — after posting powerful footage from the crash site on YouTube. A short time later he started receiving dozens of calls and messages from media organizations.

“I think everyone on the planet called me,” said Trigilio. “A lot of national and international [media outlets].”

Still, Trigilio said he doesn’t consider himself an armchair journalist. He said he only posted the footage to let his friends know about the horrifying events that were playing out in his hometown.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

“I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism”

Leonard Witt, a veteran of the public journalism movement (pdf 220 kb), has received a multi-year gift totaling $1.5 million from New York’s Harnisch Foundation to start a Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University, located in suburban Atlanta.

In this interview with Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group chair Nikhil Moro conducted via Skype messages, a self-assured Witt lays out his plans for the Center and elucidates some premises of sustainable journalism.

Moro: Congratulations. Do you feel like a star?

Witt: A star makes it sound way too individual. This is an age of collaboration. So I want to feel like an agent who makes others stars.

Moro: I don't know any other citizen journalism advocate who got a gift of $1.5 million! How will you prioritize? What will be the focus areas of your proposed Center?

Witt: The Center for Sustainable Journalism will work on two levels: 1. The Applied or Practical, and 2. the Academic.

1. The Center will be an incubator, economic engine and nurturer of new, sustainable models for high quality, ethically sound journalism. The goal will be to produce projects that will be spun off into stand-alone nonprofit or for-profit entities.

2. The Center will be part of Kennesaw State University where it will reflect the university’s educational mission of teaching, mentoring, coaching, service and applied research in a global environment. That includes working with undergraduates, developing new courses, building a graduate program and producing bodies of research and evaluative tools related to the projects developed and to applied media innovation and information economics in general.

Moro: How would you define "high quality" journalism?

Witt: Interesting question for which people have lots of answers. I look at the New York Times and Washington Post and say that is high quality, ethically sound journalism. However, that does not mean they are perfect in what they do. Today everyone has a point of view about what makes high quality, ethically sound journalism and the exchange of ideas really is improving the state of journalism. I want the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University to play an important part in that international conversation.

Moro: Is the $1.5 million to be a permanent corpus or the operating capital for the Center's first five years?

Witt: It is operating capital. In five years the Center itself has to be self sustaining. That's part of our incentive to do excellent work quickly. We have to be on entrepreneurial time, more than academic time.

Moro: Would you say that the value of the media industries is more social than libertarian? Starting with the 1947 Hutchins report and the 1956 work of Frederick S. Siebert, among others, we seem to have come to define media credibility by a norm of social responsibility.

Witt: You know I was a part of the public journalism reform movement, which basically said newspapers and the news media in general were not socially responsible enough. Now that the old models are falling apart it is a golden time to rebuild models that are more socially responsible and by that I mean providing the information that the public needs to make informed personal, professional and citizen oriented decisions.

It also means providing methods by which the public can use that information to have both vertical and horizontal discussions among themselves and with decision makers. Of course, the public via social media tools is taking care of that conversational part very well. So maybe if the journalists just provide in-depth information, it will be enough.

Moro: You have said your Center will seek new business models. Elaborate?

Witt: We will be hiring a Research Director and a Business Development Officer, who will help make informed decisions in identifying the best models and then we will be aggressive in trying to test them.

Moro: Does good journalism need an astute business model?

Witt: I believe if news has value, then people should pay for it, just as they do for most everything else that has value to them. That's my mindset.

Moro: It reminds me of Walter Isaacson's proposal. He thinks giving journalism away devalues it. Yet he doesn’t like advertisers. He’d rather have online readers support journalism via some sort of EZPass. Do you think his model is workable when media businesses are not just losing market value, but that value is moving to other businesses?

Witt: I have been saying similar things for a long time. What does it cost to do good, solid journalism? Not Britney Spears news. That will take care of itself. And not paper, just what does it cost to produce high quality journalism? The answer: The cost for that is doable. If each of us who buys news on paper now paid $2 to $4 a week for it online it would no longer be an issue. Indeed, we could invest in newsrooms and with the same $4 or so a week we could collectively own the best newsrooms in the country. So how do we get there? Stay tuned to the work of the Center for Sustainable Journalism!

That’s what the funder, Ruth Ann Harnisch, is investing in. Answers to meet a challenge that seems enormous but in the end, I believe, is solvable. We just have to stop wringing our hands, and attack it.

Moro: Is your proposal to offer a graduate program ready?

Witt: Nope, that will be what the Research Director and the faculty at Kennesaw State figure out.

Moro: Will your Center have a separate building?

Witt: We are in the process of determining the space needs right now.

Moro: At CCJIG we believe citizen journalism is worthy of study because (1) the collective intelligence adds value to information (more heads are better than one), (2) in a marketplace information from multiple non-experts may trump that from a singular source, and (3) adverse social effects of media consolidation may be neutralized by every citizen having his or her own soap box -- so what if it's a blog. Here’s your question: Could any of those premises guide us to restructure the mainstream media?

Witt: I like the idea of having information communities where everyone in the community helps share information and the journalist's reporting is the informational glue that holds the community together. However, one thing we are learning at our trial project at Locally Grown in Northfield, MN, is that some people don't want to participate, they just want the journalism and they see it as the journalist's job to be sure they have it.

Moro: Was the notion of representative journalism your response to their want?

Witt: My representative journalism -- now we are referring to our range of ideas as Community Supported Journalism -- was based on the premise that ads are decoupling from the news and will continue to do so. So journalism will have to pay for itself. Now I am trying to figure how to get that done via Community Supported Journalism. That will be the work of the Center.

Moro: To revisit the relationship between credibility and sustainable journalism, there’s the old question about whether bloggers have an incentive to check facts, to learn publishing law, to be ethical – or even to write well. After all, bloggers' value lies not in individual excellence but in their “collective intelligence.” Is such a status quo sustainable?

Witt: I used to worry that journalists were not reaching out to citizens. Now my primary worry is about the fate of journalists who produce in-depth stories and investigations that help us understand who we are singularly and collectively. Great journalism takes time and lots of hard work. No one is going to do that for free. So yes, I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism to be a part of that mix. I think it is vital.

Moro: Excellent. Please list five specific ways in which you plan to achieve your academy of sound journalism.

Witt: 1. We will do research to determine best practices, 2. We will do trial projects to test those best practices, 3. We will collaborate and help others establish projects, 4. We will get students involved so they can see new possibilities for the future, and 5. We will nurture and launch what we think are models that will be sustainable.

Moro: Thank you for the good interview, Len. My best wishes to you and to your Center.

Witt: Thanks, Nikhil, for taking the time to do this. I enjoyed it.

Photo courtesy of Mike Schinkel
Also read: Witt gets $1.5 million from Harnisch

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Witt gets $1.5 million from Harnisch to start new Center for Sustainable Journalism

Bleak as the layoffs scene may be, there is always a silver lining which keeps the future aglitter.

I am pleased to report that Leonard Witt will receive a gift of -- no kidding -- $1.5 million to start a Center for Sustainable Journalism in suburban Atlanta.

The gift, one of the largest ever offered to a citizen journalism scholar, is pledged by the Harnisch Foundation to the Kennesaw State University Foundation. It will help Witt "seek new business models so that high quality, ethically sound journalism continues to have a role in our democratic society."

The Foundation, established by Ruth Ann Harnisch in New York in 1998 with the motto, "If people knew better, they'd do better," is already invested in Witt's idea of representative journalism. Late last year it gave Witt a quarter million dollars for "creating leading-edge experiments in new journalism for the digital age at a time of upheaval in traditional media."

One of Witt's community-supported journalism crucibles may be found here. A quick profile of Ruth Ann Harnisch is available by scrolling down here (pdf 820k).

Witt's story is inspiring for his achievements as much as for his warmly deliberative personality. I am proud to count him as a mentor and friend (he and his enthusiastic wife Diana flew to India for my wedding in 2006.)

Formerly a magazine journalist in Pennsylvania and in Minnesota, Witt edited a book on feature writing and also served as executive director of Minnesota Public Radio's Civic Journalism Initiative. In 2002 he assumed an endowed chair at Kennesaw State -- and found his niche. A few months later he founded the Public Journalism Network.

Since then Witt has emerged as a national figure in the deliberations of journalism reform. Having glided into the professoriate from journalism, Witt's accessible style of sharing ideas stands out in a culture which sometimes accepts inscrutability as a function of erudition.

Witt is a former chair of the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group. I offer him warm congratulations on behalf of all of our 116 registered members -- and I predict that he will treat us to a celebratory round of drinks in Boston!

I have asked Witt to share with me his plans and priorities for the new Center. Please watch this blog for what I hope will be a scoop.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

SoCon09, Atlanta's annual social media gathering, opens Friday night

SoCon09, the social media gathering whose deliberations happen in "breakouts" rather than in panel sessions, opens in Atlanta Friday night with a "Big Eating, Big Thinking, Big Networking Dinner" at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in Cumberland mall.

The breakouts, scheduled on Saturday at Kennesaw State University, reflect an impressive agenda: "Return on Investment in Social Media," "How to Build Social Capital and Real Capital in the Nonprofit Sector," "Social Media for B2B," "Social Media 101 with Hands-on Training," and "What’s Next With Social Media," among other topics.

If you've been laid off a media job, organizer Leonard Witt has a special message for you: "With some 250 people already registered and with many of them making hiring decisions, its a good event to do the necessary networking to get back into the job market."

To register go here.

Update: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the event here.

Stop giving away content via Web, Walter Isaacson advises media

The old issue of how the media can be loyal to readers (who depend on them for empowering information) over corporations (which sustain them via advertisements) may have found a new sage.

Walter Isaacson, president of Washington's non-profit Aspen Institute, has offered that "to guarantee the integrity and independence" of media organizations, a prerequisite is to have "a business model that depends on revenue from the users as well as from advertisers."

Mr. Isaacson, a former editor of Time and chairman of CNN, says that regardless of the proportion of subscriptions in their revenue stream, media organizations must end the practice of giving away free content via the Web and instead return to getting paid by users. He contends it makes good business sense too:
Currently, a few newspapers -- most notably the Wall Street Journal -- charge for their online editions by requiring a monthly subscription.

When Rupert Murdoch acquired the Journal, he ruminated publicly about dropping the subscription fee. But Murdoch is a smart businessman. He took a look at the economics and decided it was lunacy to forgo the revenue -- and that was even before the online ad market began falling.

Now his move looks really smart. Paid subscriptions for the Journal's Web site were up 7 percent in a very gloomy year.
Check out the podcast here.

Time has just now (February 5 afternoon) published a cover story by Mr. Isaacson, How to Save Your Newspaper

Also just posted: A Bold, Old Idea for Saving Journalism (The Huffington Post)

Update (1 March 2009): Can selling news via the Web save the newspapers?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

AllVoices claims a leap in popularity

AllVoices, the citizen media platform founded in April of 2007, claims to have turned into "the fastest growing participatory media outlet on the Web" by getting in excess of one million visitors last month.

How did they do it? Try this. The site lists Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, ahead of President Barack Obama in "People in the News" with "Most Buzz." Number three on the list? Morgan Fairchild. Check it out.

Operating out of San Francisco, AllVoices' multicultural team comprises "passionate people who believe that everyone has a story worth telling [and that] sharing that story can be the first step in changing lives."

"The bloggers are omnipresent, and watching!"

Tom DeLay, Jeff Gannon, Dan Rather, Alberto Gonzales, George Allen... Important people brought to apologies by journalist bloggers is part of the lore of citizen journalism.

The latest to join the hall of fame seems to be Tom Daschle. Martha R. Gore writes in today's Examiner of Detroit:
When the White House announced the nomination of Tom Daschle for the office of Secretary of Health and Human Services, citizen journalists went into high gear. In a matter of seconds, Mr. Daschle's unpaid taxes and conflict of interest with the health industry problems were being examined, investigated, and discussed in blogs....

So it should be no surprise that by the time Daschle appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to explain away the complications in his selection by Obama for the cabinet position, information about every appearance he made, every speech he gave, the limo in which he traveled, and anything he might have said privately, was flying across the wires that connected computers to internet sources to immediately turning up on the blogs.

J-Lab grant for participatory news crucibles: Deadline February 12

Jan Schaffer would like to remind us of the February 12 deadline for this year's New Voices grants.
J-Lab: The institute for Interactive Journalism invites you to apply for funding to launch a participatory news venture in your community. J-Lab will select eight projects in 2009. Each project may receive up to $25,000.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Have advice for President Obama? Let GroundReport pay you for it

If you're a citizen journalist living outside America who'd like to be on TV in America, then read this.

GroundReport, the citizen journalism platform which pays contributors, has launched Talk To US, a monthly segment on American Public Television's Worldfocus show.

The first month's question is, "What's your advice for President Barack Obama?"

Submit your advice in a one-minute video via either YouTube or GroundReport. Deadline: February 15. If you're among the first 100 to upload, you will earn $5.

Rules: You should be a non-U.S. citizen living outside America. You may submit multiple videos but would be paid for only one. And yes, the resolution should be good enough to air on television.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Detroit newspapers cut home delivery rather than diminish journalism

I live in snowy white Michigan, where the grit and resilience of a foundering economy are on display via the newspaper industry.

Detroit's newspapers are trying hard to keep the presses rolling, but without ink or newsprint -- apparently taking inspiration from the Christian Science Monitor. John Morton writes in the latest American Journalism Review about the alternative approach in an industry rife with owners who have "cut back on their newsroom rosters and their journalism."
So what else might newspapers do? Well, comes now Detroit's joint operating agency, which publishes the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, with a startling new approach to cost-cutting. Instead of diminishing the journalism, the agency will eliminate home-delivery of the newspapers on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Here's why this could save a lot of money. Most seven-day dailies are fattest in pages and advertising on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with Sunday alone often accounting for 40 percent or more of weekly revenue. Even profitable newspapers, which the Detroit agency says its dailies are not, often lose money on thin publishing days. But it is traditional that daily newspapers publish, well, daily. There's also a sense of civic obligation to do so.

The Detroit newspapers will still print daily editions (the News does not print on Sunday), but on non-delivery days they will be available only at newsstands, stores and coin boxes. Subscribers with Internet access also will be able to read complete versions of the papers online.

Detroit executives say that by halting home delivery four days a week, the agency will save 12,000 metric tons of newsprint annually, which is worth more than $8 million a year at current prices. Other major savings will come from lower distribution costs�"trucks, drivers, fuel. The agency expects the plan to allow it to reduce its 2,100-member work force by 9 percent, which I estimate is worth about $9 million a year. The two newsrooms, which are independent of the agency, will not be affected.

As Dave Hunke, chief executive of the agency and publisher of the Free Press, has said: "We need to spend less money on paper, fuel and ink and spend more on journalism."
As I watch the chaste snowflakes flitting down Michigan's frigid sky, Mr. Hunke's words make good sense.

An Oregon blogger struggles to be accepted as "accountable"

This anecdote from the city of Lake Oswego, Oregon, is reported by Kevin Hanson in a Salem Monthly site's story exploring "what constitutes professional journalism and, in Oregon, the task of being a government watchdog."
Late in 2008, the Lake Oswego City Council found themselves in the middle of defining this profession. A blogger, Mark Buntner who publishes under the pseudonym of Torrid Joe at, attempted to sit in on an executive session of the council. Because of Oregon's "sunshine" laws, most executive sessions are open to the media. According to the minutes of the meeting, however, the blogger was asked to leave. Attending the non-public meetings of council members requires what Lake Oswego's City Attorney David Powell calls a "good faith accountability" between a reporter and the city government. But if a blogger is only accountable to themselves, how can it be enforced?

Powell told the Lake Oswego City Council that "they were not trying to define media for First Amendment or legitimacy purposes, but solely for accountability, so that the City had some recourse in the event of a violation of the [executive session] policy."

Stimulus for newspaper industry: Precedent exists for "a public investment in words"

Last week I posted a thought for the newspaper industry to be included in the federal stimulus plan.

Today David Scharfenberg opines in the Boston Globe:
Congress, intent on jump-starting the economy, should set aside $100 million - well under 1 percent of the stimulus approved by the House of Representatives and pending in the Senate - for a national journalism fund.

The cash would seed low-cost, Internet-based news operations in cities large and small - combining vigorous, professional reporting with blogging, video posts, citizen journalism, and aggregation of stories from other sources.

He notes that, clearly, there is a healthy precedent for "a public investment in words."

The Depression-era Federal Writers Project paid the underemployed to compile oral histories, sketch out ethnographies, and write comprehensive guides to the states. And for more than 40 years, Washington has contributed to National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System.

University of Kentucky offers free citizen journalism workshops

The University of Kentucky is offering citizen journalism workshops for the Lexington community, courtesy the Kentucky Citizen Media Project.

Participants would publish their work on the newly launched Lexington Commons site.

According to a media release the workshops, which are free and include lunch, will be four in number -- every month starting February.
The workshops will cover basic journalism training, how to recognize news, how to write a story, hard news and feature writing. They will also cover journalism ethics and media law. Participants will be shown how to use the Web site’s tools that will allow them to post stories, blogs and podcasts.

Seungahn Nah, assistant professor of community communications and director of KCMP, said the project reflects his favorite quote from OhMyNews in South Korea, one of the first citizen-based projects in the world: "Every citizen is a reporter."

The workshops are free and open to anyone in Lexington who is interested in regularly contributing to the Lexington Commons.