Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pew study contrasts citizen sites v. blogs v. sites tied to legacy media

Pew's State of the News Media 2009 survey examines, among other things, "363 journalism sites in 46 markets (145 citizen journalism sites and 218 tied to commercial media)."

Led by professors Margaret Duffy, Esther Thorson, Stephen Lacy and Daniel Riffe the study compares citizen news blogs, citizen news sites, and sites tied to legacy media.

It finds
[C]lear differences between citizen blogs that primarily offer commentary (along with links to already reported information) and a new array of citizen news sites that also do original reporting. The broader citizen news sites were more interactive, more transparent and more likely to use citizen content. Blogs, while easy to create and set up, were much more limited and less open. Even legacy media now surpass blogs in many of the characteristics that citizen media were once supposed to represent.

Among the findings:
  • Blogs were the least the likely to allow citizens to contribute — even to post comments or e-mail the site. The leaders in such interactivity were citizen news sites.

  • Legacy media excelled in creating innovative ways for people to download or receive content.

  • Legacy sites were also the most transparent about their policies and expectations for users.

  • One area where legacy media trailed both citizen blogs and news sites was in providing links within their news stories to outside material. Legacy sites were more than twice as likely as citizen sites to offer no links to outside material.

  • On the other hand, the citizen sites linked to legacy news sites twice as often as legacy sites linked to citizen sites, with the citizen sites using the legacy sites as their “news” source.

The nature of the content on the three types of sites varied fairly sharply. Legacy sites provided the greatest percent of news (89%), close to double that of citizen news sites (56%), and three times that of blog content (27%).

More here.

Wordcloud courtesy of Alfred Hermida

Also see:
"I'll believe in the triumph of citizen journalism when I see it"

Citizen journalism workshop in Bangalore on May 9

On Saturday May 9 Citizen Matters, the Web magazine published with open source software in Bangalore, India, will host a three-hour workshop "to help citizen journalists understand what it takes to do credible reporting."
[The workshop] is for the part-time blogger who wants to sharpen his skills or for any civic-minded person with a hankering to contribute to a website or media outlet. By the end of the session, the participant will have a better sense of what it takes to produce good journalism.
Kanchan Kaur, vice dean of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, and Ralph Frammolino, award-winning reporter formerly of the Los Angeles Times, will conduct the workshop.

Details here.

Also see: Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai
And: Criminal charge against Orkut activist frays freedom of expression in India

"Newspapers will not be replaced by any single model"

Will newspapers be run out of existence by online news sites?

Sarah de Crescenzo, student reporter at the University of California San Diego's Guardian, writes if they are, "[W]e need to make sure we don’t discard journalism along with them."
In choosing a new business model, you should ask yourself why journalism exists in the first place.
Read her why here.

Also see: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists
And: Dan Gillmor: Be skeptical of everything, but not equally
A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

Can citizen journalism unshackle us from structure, restore a sense of autonomy?

I am reading Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain's book titled The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it (Yale University Press, 2008; download free via Creative Commons).

Strange. It is making me think of citizen journalism.

Mr. Zittrain narrates on pages 127-28:
The Dutch city of Drachten has undertaken an unusual experiment in traffic management. The roads serving forty-five thousand people are "verkeersbordvrij": free of nearly all road signs. Drachten is one of several European test sites for a traffic planning approach called "unsafe is safe." The city has removed its traffic signs, parking meters, and even parking spaces. The only rules are that drivers should yeild to those on their right at an intersection, and that parked cars blocking others will be towed.

The result so far is counterintuitive: a dramatic improvement in vehicular safety. Without signs to obey mechanically (or, as studies have shown, disobey seventy percent of the time), people are forced to drive more mindfully -- operating their cars with more care and attention to the surrounding circumstances. They communicate more with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers using hand signals and eye contact. They see other drivers rather than other cars . . . "The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles."
It's a fine argument.

I am no anarchist but I can see that the nature of rules is to preclude the individual's thoughtfulness of others. The presumption of disorder questions the individual's inherent chivalry; consequently, it can drain social capital.

Similarly, the alphabet restricts our thinking to our command of it, the structure of news reporting impedes our free appreciation of an event, and so on.

My point is that in this context, citizen journalism offers a whiff of fresh air.

Perhaps the unrestricted, market-oriented offerings of citizen journalists will free the individual of the straitjacket of standardization in journalistic practice.

Perhaps the unrestricted, market-oriented offerings of citizen journalists will help the individual recover a measure of libertarian autonomy.


So is citizen journalism some sort of panacea? Hardly. To quote Mr. Zittrain again (p. 216):
The constraints . . . [will] now come not only from the well-organized governments or firms of Privacy 1.0, but from a few people generatively drawing upon the labors of many to greatly impact rights otherwise guaranteed by a legal system.
Also see: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists
And: Dan Gillmor: Be skeptical of everything, but not equally
Finally: A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dan Gillmor: Be skeptical of everything, but not equally skeptical of everything

Oracles don't have to be mystics, or sport white beards, or live in Greece. They can be clean shaven, courtly and live in Arizona.

To the oldest of the inane questions, "Is blogging journalism?," Dan Gillmor, the veritable oracle of citizen journalism, responds:
"Oh, God, I can't wait for the day when that question disappears from the world, because it's just such the wrong question," he says. "Some blogging is journalism, most is not. Let's move on to something more interesting." . . .

"The question we should be asking is, what is journalism?"

In Gillmor's view, journalism is defined by certain principles. Among them: skepticism, accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, transparency, independence and keeping an open mind. He believes we should replace the old, impossible notion of "objectivity" with informed, critical judgment. And journalists should treat the process as a conversation, not a lecture. That means listening to more than the official sources.
How to enhance the quality of journalism? Mr. Gillmor places the onus on news consumers.

We've got the supply side pretty well covered. There are all kinds of media being created. Certainly there are lots of problems, but lots of opportunities, and it's pretty exciting what's going on.

One of the places we're really lagging is the demand side. All the supply in the world won't matter if people don't demand something better than they're getting. People who've been consumers of media have to become activists in their consumption. They can't just be passive consumers, because the result is the generally crappy state of journalism that we have today in all respects. . . .

I haven't stopped caring about helping people do good journalism, whether it's traditional or citizen or whatever you want to call it. But if we don't turn the consumers of media into active or activist-type consumers, which means in part taking actual responsibility for what we read as opposed to just letting it show up and not being satisfied, people will be missing something that citizenship should include, which is to be active in how you get your information.

Mr. Gillmor pulls no punches.

Check out the good interview with Fiona Morgan of the Independent, published from North Carolina's Triangle.

Image courtesy of Jeff Risley

Also see: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists
And: Citizen journalism welcome but must be edited, says Scripps publisher
A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

Hyperlocal site seeks to explore south LA's "wealth of characters, stories and lessons"

Bill Celis of the University of Southern California introduces Intersections, a J-Lab-funded community Web site which would highlight "untold stories" from blue collar neighborhoods in south Los Angeles.

In Mr. Celis' words the site would, rather ambitiously, let "South LA residents . . . consume all the news about their communities – good and bad – on a computer, on radio, or via cell phone."
[R]esidents themselves will have a great voice in determining our news coverage through their contributions and feedback. . . .

Our citizen journalists include teachers, students, South LA residents, all writing about the rhythm of urban life in its various incarnations. They also include high school bloggers who also produce slide shows as part of Intersection's high school mentoring program spearheaded by USC Annenberg second-year graduate journalism student Emily Henry. One 12th grade student group at Crenshaw High School, just south of the USC's main campus, explored the impact of the plummeting economy by interviewing day laborers. Others reported on teenage pregnancy by visiting with Crenshaw's teen mothers. Racial profiling was scrutinized by yet another Crenshaw group, with students interviewing security guards and people who believe they had been racially profiled by the police.
More introduction here.

Also see: SPJ partners with Helium to champion citizen journalism
Also see: Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation
And: Veteran editor champions hyperlocal Web journalism
Community blogs, "a new breed of watchdog"

And: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
Finally: A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

Citizen journalism welcome but must be edited, says Scripps publisher

Competitor Daily News reports that Memphis' E.W. Scripps-owned 168-year-old newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, has made "recent moves that severely cut the reporting staff, eliminated classified ads from the already thin Monday and Tuesday print editions and an admission that the [Appeal] probably won’t be covering less urgent topics in the future."

Appeal editor Chris Peck responds, “If we run out of people . . . , then we’re going to turn to freelancers and more community-generated content.”

Yet publisher Joseph Pepe, who insists the Appeal is profitable, seems to have rather strong views of that sort of content.

“All blogging is citizen journalism,” he told The Memphis News. “In a lot of cases it’s unsubstantiated. It’s not objective. It’s not edited content. It leans more toward opinion and subjectivity. Anytime we have citizen journalism, it’s still going to get edited. It’s still going to get verified. It’s going to get checked for facts before we post it. We apply the same rules to citizen-sponsored journalism as we do to our top line reporter.”

So does Otis L. Sanford, the Appeal's deputy managing editor.

Sanford said citizen journalism “has its place” and has been discussed since the early 1990s. It shows up in the pages he governs in the form of opinion pieces and letters to the editor. Non-newspaper employees also serve on the [Appeal's] editorial board.

“Now, I am a traditional, old-fashioned journalist,” Sanford said. “And I believe that while citizen journalism has its place, I’m not one – and maybe this is an old-fashioned view – but I’m not one to think that citizen journalism can ever take the place of the traditional journalism that I know and love. I just don’t believe that.”

Full story here.

Also read: A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists
And: Can selling news via the Web save newspapers?
And: Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"About the triumph of citizen journalism, I'll believe it when I see it"

Of Pew's State of the Media 2009 report its authors say:
"We found that legacy sites offered almost double the percent of news (89 percent) in comparison with citizen news sites (56 percent) and three times that of blogs (27 percent)," said Margaret Duffy, faculty chair in strategic communication in the Journalism School [and one of the three co-authors of the report]. "The topic coverage on blogs and citizen new sites is generally narrow and the sourcing is light." . . .

"One of the biggest surprises we found was that mainstream media Web sites were almost as welcoming to citizen participation as citizen journalism sites, and they were far more welcoming than blogs," [Esther] Thorson [another co-author] said. "Many industry professionals hope that citizen sites will democratize news media, but that hope has yet to be realized."
Stephen Hume, a columnist for the Vancouver Sun, responds to the Pew report:
[T]he priorities of citizen journalists appear remarkably similar to those for which bloggers roundly condemn old media journalists while praising the transformation of coverage by new media.

Perhaps more important, the survey found transparency and accountability remain a critical issue for both citizen journalism sites and for blogs. . . .

The Pew report also found that citizen media sites offered little in the way of helping people contact anyone through standard mail or by telephone, “or even getting a sense of where the people creating the website were located. Only three in 10 citizen sites and a mere one in 10 citizen blogs provided this information.” . . .

[W]hen it comes to the triumph of citizen journalism, I guess I’m like the proverbial guy from Missouri, I’ll believe it when I see it.

More here.

Collective intelligence or pooled ignorance?

Here is how Cal Beverly, managing editor of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, takes a question about citizen journalism from "Lauren Leak, a homeschool student."

The question:
Joe ‘the Plumber’ just recently traveled to Israel for four days on a citizen journalist mission. What is your opinion regarding citizen journalism, blogging, etc.?
Mr. Beverly's response:
My high school math teacher was something of a cynic when it came to “crowd wisdom.” “You people are just pooling your ignorance,” she would tell us so-smart juniors. It took a few years and some life experience for me to appreciate her hard-won wisdom.

So, really, how smart is the citizen journalist? Can you trust her “facts”? Or does a confusing set of sometimes contradictory facts require some sort of trained observer to sort out what’s relevant and what is just “noise”?

Your generation will get to determine the answer to that question.

Complete post here.

SPJ partners with Helium to champion citizen journalism

Helium, the online writers' community, has partnered with America's Society of Professional Journalists to share writing resources and platforms.

From a media release:
“SPJ has always been committed to inspiring and educating current and future journalists through professional development,” said Dave Aeikens, President of the Society of Professional Journalists. “Partnering with Helium allows us to continue this commitment by providing a vital stepping stone for our members to establish and build their digital credibility, while also opening our doors and embracing those who wish to become better citizen journalists.” . . .

“This partnership signifies a considerable elevation in the stature, awareness and quality of citizen journalism as it is perceived within the traditional journalism world,” said Mark Ranalli, CEO of Helium, Inc. “We are excited to work with such a prestigious journalistic organization and we look forward to continued growth and success as the world’s largest writing community.”
More here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Veteran editor: Hyperlocal Web journalism meets "civic, intellectual and social needs"

Europe's coffee houses of the early 18th century may well have been recreated in America's hyperlocal Web forums -- except for the coffee itself.

Jack Driscoll, 40-year veteran of the Boston Globe, scholar at the MIT Media Lab, is the recent author of Couch Potatoes Sprout: The Rise of Online Community Journalism (a copy of which he has generously gifted me).

Mr. Driscoll contributes to Rye Reflections, a citizen journalism site run mostly by retired residents of Rye, New Hampshire. He says about that site:
“It’s almost like the old-time discussion clubs where people want to have some sort of substantive activities,” Driscoll said. “I think this meets civic needs and intellectual needs and social needs.” The payoff for participants, he says, is the kind of intellectual stimulation that studies show lead to longeity and better health. “For the participants, there’s value. And for the community, because the participants are reporting on their communities, the communities benefit.”
Yet Mr. Driscoll sees a futility in overly relying on citizen journalism:
I do have this huge concern that a lot of people have misunderstood the value of good reporting. I’m afraid we’re going to lose a whole tier of quality professionalism in the media. The impact of that, I think, is going to be huge. What I’ve been involved in is hyperlocal. But who’s covering state government? Who’s covering the courts? Who’s covering science and medicine? The Globe just closed its science and medicine section, and when I heard that I nearly died. I was the one who started it.
Check out his interview here.

Image courtesy of Jim Cerny.

Also see: Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation
And: Community blogs, "a new breed of watchdog"
And: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
And: 3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists
Finally: A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

"When legend becomes fact, print the legend" may be Hollywood's motto

In the last few days Hollywood has released two new films about journalists, State of Play (featuring Russell Crowe) and The Soloist (Robert Downey Jr.)

The Los Angeles Times' "chief Oscarologist," Patrick Goldstein, who says consuming "all sorts of rakish visions of newspaper life" on the silver screen pushed him into journalism, wonders how journalists' portrayal in motion pictures is evolving.
Newspaper movies are made because good drama usually involves moral dilemmas — and when it comes to complicated choices, the daily work of a newspaper reporter is a perfect vehicle.

If you look back on the history of newspaper movies, virtually all of the great films, comedy or drama, involve wrestling with difficult choices and establishing some sort of moral compass. Whether it’s “His Girl Friday” or “Sweet Smell of Success” or “Broadcast News,” the issue always raises its head — how far will you go to get the story? . . .

What might change is the gestalt of journalism movies. “State of Play” didn’t just get its facts about journalism wrong, but its tone was off, too. The days of top gun investigative reporters are pretty much over.

Today’s journalists are less swaggering and self-involved, more nuanced and self-critical, especially in an era where every move a journalist makes is immediately analyzed and chewed over in a hundred blogs.

Hollywood hasn’t quite caught up to — or felt the pulse of — that new style of journalism.
More here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why citizen journalism may not be for some

The Sacramento News & Review -- the alternative newspaper which once employed the late Gary Webb, whose exposé of the CIA's role in smuggling cocaine into Los Angeles was featured in Kevin Booth's 2007 documentary American Drug War -- turns 20 this month.

Like many other papers, the News & Review is facing economic travails. Cosmo Garvin, an editor, offers this "Bite":
[W]eirdly enough, recent numbers show that SN&R has more readers—of its print version—than ever. Count in the online readership, which is modest but growing—and it’s clear that readership is strong—it’s just ad sales, the economy, things that are out of a mere reporter’s control—that are killing us.
As a result,
Last year at this time, we were running a lean operation. This year, we’re rail thin.
Might publishing citizen journalism offer a solution? There's something to be said about Mr. Garvin's pluck.
Is there something to be learned from the Sacramento Press, a local experiment in “citizen journalism” that launched a few months ago?

A reporter friend, who recently left the business, says she “couldn’t be less impressed” with the Press’ mix of news releases, bloglike opinion posts and, on a good day, actual reporting. But credit them with trying something new(ish), and give them a chance to develop. If they’d just credit our photos when they use them and keep their fliers out of our news racks—Bites would say the more the merrier.

But no, the Sacramento Press’ “citizen journalism” model won’t work for us, any more than the [Sacramento] Bee’s business model will work for us. We won’t be reprinting releases from the Sacramento Police Department. And we won’t be shoveling money at shareholders and multimillionaire CEOs.

We will pick up a phone, go knock on a door, go to the show, ask a lot of questions and tell readers something they didn’t already know. And whether you get that via Twitter or read it on the bus or have it beamed directly into your brain plugs—it will still be free.

Find the whole "Bite" here.

Also read: "The future lies in alternative journalism, not citizen journalism"
"It's all about the content. It's not about the medium"
And: Newspapers' closure adversely affects political engagement, study finds
And: "Media innovation cannot be dependent on advertisers"
And: Did the Newspaper Preservation Act encourage newspapers to ignore the competition?
Finally: Should the newspaper industry get a bailout?

Expert on Pulitzers says prizes must better recognize online journalism

Roy J. Harris Jr., author of a fine tome about "the most prestigious of the Pulitzers," thinks the time has come to "reinvent" the prizes, albeit without lifting their "bar" on citizen journalism.

From yesterday's Christian Science Monitor:
[I]f the Pulitzers recognized excellence across a wider range of print and electronic content, they could help lift journalism once more. . . .

[O]ne way to break the ice is to create special categories for online entries. But Pulitzer purists blanch at the idea, noting that over the years categories have been drawn to consider the quality of the work, rather than its source. A more sensible approach – one that points the way to the Pulitzers' 21st-century standard of excellence for all text-based journalism – is to broaden eligibility further, to all US online news operations, regardless of affiliation. That would allow magazine and broadcast-based online reporters to compete, too, while still letting the Pulitzers hold the line (for now) at barring citizen journalism, such as blogs and photos taken by individuals on a cellphone.
Also see: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists
And: Tabloid Baby piqued Pulitzer entry was rejected

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Twitter is close to passing NYT in unique visitors

I am not sure it is an appropriate comparison but it's quite fascinating., less than three years old, is about to beat the venerable 14-year-old in the number of unique visitors per month -- about 14 million in March versus 16.7 million, with a rate of growth much quicker.

Don't believe that? Check out the latest numbers at

Also read: Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai
And: 3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists
And: Asia's social media use shows what a big world it is

Do a half million Americans live off blogs?

Check out this Good Morning Yahoo! report from Minnesota about how some bloggers are making money.

The story follows up Mark Penn's provocative piece in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago. Using Technorati stats Mr. Penn wrote:
[W]e are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That's almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click -- whether on their site or someone else's.
There are almost as many [Americans] making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers. Already more Americans are making their primary income from posting their opinions than Americans working as computer programmers or firefighters.
As bloggers have increased in numbers, the number of journalists has significantly declined. In Washington alone, there are now 79% fewer DC-based employees of major newspapers than there were just few years ago. At the same time, Washington is easily the most blogged-about city in America, if not the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Someone is piqued Pulitzer entry was rejected

Tabloid Baby is mad to have been declared out even before the match began.
Who is this Sig Gissler? Who is he to decide what the committee should consider?
Enjoy the harangue here.

Also see: Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MySpace starts its own citizen journalism forum

If Rupert Murdoch has a nose for profit then citizen journalism must be lucrative, at least potentially.

Mr. Murdoch's social networking portal, MySpace, has announced it will publish the work of "uReporters."

From a MySpace press release today.
MySpace, the world’s leading online social portal, together with Fox News, today announced an exclusive partnership for the launch of the official MySpace uReport community at The partnership, the first between MySpace and Fox News, gives the global MySpace community the ability to share their citizen journalist-produced content with the MySpace community, as well as have the chance to be featured on Fox News.

Members of the MySpace uReport community can become “uReporters” by uploading video and photos tagged by specific news categories including USA, World, Entertainment and Politics. This content could be featured in relevant programming on Fox News Channel and, with Fox News maintaining editorial control of the MySpace page. The community will also feature profiles of Fox News anchors and hosts, allowing members to link to their favorite network personalities.
More here.

Also see
: Fox News launches citizen journalism site
And: Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation
And: Citizen journalism will complement "public media 2.0," says white paper
A sustainable model emerges: Use collective intelligence but fact-check with journalists

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pulitzers, a humbling experience for Internet journalists

The Pulitzer Prizes announced today honored the usual suspects (such as the New York Times) and some unusual ones (the Detroit Free Press).

This year's prizes hailed not only the best American writing but also the medium of the Internet by allowing, for the first time, "online-only publications primarily devoted to original news reporting" to compete in all 14 prize categories.

In Sig Gissler's words, that made the prizes a "living organism."

Lisa Respers France writes for CNN:

Robert M. Steele, the Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University in Indiana, said . . . . opening the Pulitzer Prizes to online publications "gives further weight to the role that digital journalism plays in this era."

"In some ways, it's increased legitimacy for new forms of delivering journalism," Steele said. "It also heightens the discussion about the distinction between basic information and substantive journalism. Just because somebody throws something online doesn't mean it is journalism."

Surprisingly, despite the 65 entries accepted from 37 online-only outlets, not a single online-only publication won a Pulitzer.

Not one online-only publication was even a finalist.

Why not? Whoa, before we engage in fallacious generalization about mediocrity or about the role of citizen reporters, let's consider a possibility.

The best online outlets (think Talking Points Memo, Salon, Slate) simply did not apply for a Pulitzer.

That could well be the reason none won.

As Ms. France reports:
David Plotz, editor of Slate, said his site did not apply for the Pulitzers despite what he believes was his publication's exceptional political, technology and business coverage.

"We are not a hard-news site, and we don't do the kinds of stories and projects that have traditionally been awarded," Plotz said.

Plotz said the recognition for online journalism is more than warranted.

"It's an overdue acknowledgement that some of the best journalism in the world and in America is being created not for print publication but for places that live entirely on the Web," he said.

So there.

Only last December, Arizona State professor Dan Gillmor had offered the Pulitzer Prize Board three annotated tips to identify the best Internet journalism.

In retrospect, it seems Mr. Gillmor's effort may have been moot.

Also see: Journalism comes full circle with civic/citizen movement
And: Is the Web a poor medium of local news?
And: "The Internet weakens the press' authority"
And: "It's all about the content. It's not about the medium"
And: Scholars call for tax credit for buying newspapers
: Should the newspaper industry get a bailout?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The new journalism is a "truly multimedia story"

Combining professional and citizen journalism to produce "participatory online investigations" "makes you think about different questions you wouldn't come across otherwise," writes Anne Laure-Marie exploring technology penetration in Africa.
The advantages of seeking information from a community 'in the field' are numerous. For a start, it allows a journalist such as Marie to obtain contributions from many different countries, such as Benin, Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar and the Congo: it would have been financially and practically impossible for one reporter to visit all of them in a short space of time. Looking at a range of countries allowed her to draw more general conclusions about the problems, and identify the causes more accurately. And as she said, her point of view would have always been that of a foreigner; "The people who live in the place always have another way of seeing the problem."
More here.

AllVoices to accept citizen contributions via SMS

AllVoices has decided to let citizen journalists send in their news via SMS.
The Allvoices system will immediately begin to build a report page around the submission, searching both mainstream media and user-generated content, including picture and video. The system will also send a report code back to the contributor so that more content can be provided to the same report using the code.

"Mobile device technology has reached a point in its evolution where text reports and media are of comparable quality to data delivered via a PC or media shot with dedicated cameras," explained Allvoices CEO Amra Tareen. She added that she believes "it's becoming increasingly clear that people want breaking news delivered immediately, and with little editorial bias or interference." In the US, contributors can send an SMS to 'VOICES,' and international participants can find an SMS number on the Allvoices site.
Also see: AllVoices pioneers credibility ratings
And: AllVoices claims a leap in popularity

Journalism's future lies in reporters "who can produce text, audio, video for any media"

I have long advocated that journalism educators must recognize the need for budding reporters to produce content for multiple media. Journalists need to appreciate the obvious convergence of media and, hence, skills.

Now Frank Catalano writes,
[T]he journalistic future I think we’re about to embark upon: that of free-agent professionals who are medium agnostic and can produce text, audio and video for just about any kind of media outlet, including one they individually control. Think of it as blended reporting.

A baby step in that direction is independent certification of journalists as professionals (not government licensing, and not required — it’s all optional). As I noted in the lively comments to the TechFlash piece, certification would provide another tool to help news consumers comparison shop among unfamiliar news sources. And perhaps provide some guidance for the wannabe journalist (the ones without formal training or experience) that they’re on the right track.

It certainly won’t guarantee good reporting. If what someone produces is inaccurate or crap, the audience won’t come back. Certification is only a initial filter that certain standards and expected practices are likely to be adhered to.

Why hasn’t this been done before? I think the reason practicing journalists are queasy about certification is three-fold:

1) First Amendment fears. Some would see certification, even voluntary, as a first step toward government licensing (which I oppose). This is why, I think, RTNDA and SPJ/SDX — even with their standards and codes of ethics — have never taken the step beyond membership to certification, unlike associations in other many other professions.

2) Notoriously independent nature. Journalists are an ornery bunch (me included).

3) Assumed screening by the employing organization. Journalist wannabes didn’t used to have a news media voice or be able to reach an audience unless they were hired by a journalistic organization that effectively vouched for them.

More here.

Also see: Can selling news via the Web save newspapers?
And see:
Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai
How to add value to amateur content

"A high Google page rank doesn’t mean it’s accurate, only popular"

Writes Frank Catalano,
“Citizen journalism” means citizens can be journalists and reach a potential audience without the intermediary of owning their own printing press or television tower.

But what’s missing is credibility and, in many cases, trust. The old infrastructure limitations to being a well-read or well-viewed journalist also had an implicit screening effect: If you were hired and worked your way up to a larger paper or TV station, you were effectively trained in (or at least had a fighting chance of) being good at journalism by bosses and colleagues who acted as mentors. Effectively, you were “certified” by the process.

Today, blogs and tweets aren’t consistently trustworthy. And there is no comparable screening process to fall back upon.

A high Google page rank doesn’t mean it’s accurate, only popular.

Also that

[P]erhaps it’s time for the Radio-Television News Directors Association, Society of Professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi, and other professional journalism associations to suck it up and join together to agree on a core set of standards for a professional journalist certification, duration before re-certification, and grounds for revocation. All have their guidelines and codes of ethics. If they won’t work together, turn the project over to an international standards body to do the heavy lifting.

Understand the benefits won’t accrue to those lucky reporters still drawing a paycheck from an established news organization or those who are household names (though some, who mix facts and opinion without identifying which is which, surely could benefit).

"Perhaps we don't need CNN anymore"

Marc Moore writes of the April 15 "Houston tea party."
[T]he business model for newspapers as we know them is not sustainable. It can never be so when readers - i.e., customers - see the market price for news as zero. We expect to get our news for free these days and one effect is that the cost of production must also be zero or as close to it as possible.

Citizen journalism meets that criteria. My concern is that the integrity that we’ve become accustomed to seeing demonstrated by our leading reporters would be lost if the reporting of news were handed over to ordinary citizens like me.

However, judging from the absolutely shameful reporting and commentary produced by CNN and MSNBC while covering the tea parties, that concern seems less important.
Mr. Moore further adds:
For these offenses against journalistic integrity CNN and MSNBC should be banned from the link list of all respectable blogs. They deserve no props for their work and no links from ours.
Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Meet the Cuban citizen journalist who seeks a "blogostróika"

Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban who blogs in Spanish, is trying to create that island's largest citizen journalism portal.

Ms. Sanchez, who is said to represent Cuba's "blogostróika," says of the phenomenon,
[T]he label of blogostróika came from Cuban(s) writing their blogs from exile. … The use of this term is a clear allusion to the process that came about when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, especially during the information transparency process called glasnost. Even though the term sounds nice, I have to make a small comment that perestroika was pushed from a position of power, while the alternative Cuban blogosphere did not ask permission from anyone to exist.
Check out her interview with Claudia Cadelo of Global Voices.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In an era of "churnalism," reporters still help sustain democracy

With newspapers in trouble, is a degree in journalism any less useful?

University of Kent
professor and former Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst doesn't think so. In an era of "churnalism," he writes for the Independent,
[S]ociety has never had more urgent need of reporters with advanced academic, professional and technical skills. Serious journalism is the lifeblood of democracy. It keeps powerful institutions under pressure to be honest and informs popular choice on crucial issues.
Good journalism jobs were hard to get long before the industry plunged into crisis. Decline is making the profession still more ruthlessly meritocratic, which is why we are candid about the competition our graduates will face.
And so on.

Also see: Can selling news via the Web save newspapers?
And see:
Some thoughts on citizen journalism and Mumbai
How to add value to amateur content

The Washington Times embraces citizen journalism

You know it's big when the conservatives adapt.

Starting today, the Washington Times will carry a full page of citizen journalism every day, in its (metro) "A" section, in order to offer "a natural complement" to professional journalism.

In a report headlined "Times embraces 'citizen journalism'" (note the intriguing quotation marks), Jennifer Harper announces the newspaper's commitment to "one full print page per day of news stories reported and written by average citizens in local communities."

More here.

Also see: Jai Ho to America's newspaper of record
And: Broadcast stations enlist college students as citizen reporters
And: 3G technology promises more power to citizen journalists

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mainstream media sites increasingly welcome citizen participation

Any surprise in this Missouri School release? Not for me.
[D]espite ongoing reports of financial troubles and cutbacks, legacy media are more comprehensive and more technologically advanced than citizen media and bloggers.
But check out Mizzou don Esther Thorson:
One of the biggest surprises we found was that mainstream media Web sites were almost as welcoming to citizen participation as citizen journalism sites, and they were far more welcoming than blogs...
More here.

HuffPo seeks norms for citizen journalists

Did someone say citizen journalism necessarily lowers the bar?

Check out the Huffington Post's checklist of "citizen journalism publishing standards." It includes alerts for spelling, grammar, fact-checking, attribution, balance, and brevity.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Call For Submissions

The following is from Bill Reader at Ohio University


The rapid changes in the newspaper industry have turned more focus in recent years to what appears to be one of the more stable branches of the newspaper business — small-circulation daily and weekly newspapers generally referred to as "community newspapers." In light of these developments, the Newspaper Research Journal is accepting research articles and conceptual/theoretical essays that will shed light on "The Future of Community Newspapers" for a special issue of NRJ (tentatively scheduled for the winter 2011 issue).

This call is for articles that provide insights into the modern role of community newspapers, as well as suggestions that would help community newspapers to adapt to the changing marketplace. Both social-scientific and cultural/critical approaches will be considered, as will mixed-methods approaches. Preference will be given to articles that draw upon and advance media theory, although insightful non-theoretical, descriptive studies will be considered.

Submissions will undergo NRJ's usual peer-review process, and must be original research that is not under review with any other publication (although modified conference papers will be considered). NRJ's published guidelines regarding length, citation style, and formatting of tabular material will apply. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 1, 2009.

Submissions should be sent as Microsoft Word files to guest editor Bill Reader of Ohio University. E-mail them to

Bill Reader, assistant professor

E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Ohio University

102 Scripps Hall, Athens, Ohio, 45701


-- officer, Community Journalism Interest Group of AEJMC

-- Academic partner and steering committee member, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

-- National Newspaper Association Continuing Education Committee member