Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CCJIG's annual report for 2008-09 records significant achievements, key aspirations

I have placed on file CCJIG's annual report (and demographic profile) (pdf, 293 kb) for 2008-09.

The group's chief achievements for the year:
  • Membership jumped by about 30 per cent to 116, from 89 a year ago. Of those registered members, 57 were female; six identified themselves as African-American, two as Asian-American, and 12 as International.
  • CCJIG emerged as AEJMC’s largest interest group (by number of registered members), as announced by Council of Divisions chair Kimberly Bissell at the mid-winter meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on 6 Dec. 2008.
  • Entries for the 2009 research paper competition increased 50 per cent to 27 from 18 a year ago, including a record 14 graduate student paper submissions.
  • An update of CCJIG’s research bibliography was published.
  • New collaborations (Law & Policy and History; also Harvard University and MIT) were established for convention activities. Old collaborations were maintained (Community Journalism, Media Ethics, Newspaper, Council of Affiliates).
  • The CCJIG blog, with more than 120 posts, became a primary catalyst of member discussion, meeting a key goal listed in the previous annual report.
  • An additional 100 or so posts on AEJMC Talk, many of them repeats or elaborations of CCJIG blog posts, exposed the larger AEJMC membership to civic and citizen journalism discussions.
  • Three newsletters (Fall 2008, Spring 2009, and Summer 2009) were published and circulated inside and outside of the group by newsprint and e-mail, each to about 200 receivers.
  • As of 30 July 2009, CCJIG's account had a balance of $3766.50.
  • CCJIG secured a $400 travel grant from AEJMC to fund the 2009 Boston convention travel of a non-member panelist from New York.
The report also lists CCJIG’s goals for the coming year. Some of those goals reflect perceived weaknesses; their order of priority is to be decided by the in-coming officers.

The group's goals for 2009-10:
  • Facilitate a discussion of CCJIG possibly applying to be an AEJMC Division, in a light of the group's quickly rising membership, the ubiquity of user-generated media, and the burgeoning scholarship of citizen journalism.
  • Maintain the CCJIG blog as a primary catalyst of member discussion, partly by encouraging blog participation by a cross-section of the membership.
  • Increase membership of minority and International scholars by 5 per cent overall.
  • Facilitate two or three Teaching panels in Denver 2010 (in Boston 2009 the group had only one) so that a relative balance may be restored between CCJIG’s Research, Teaching and PF&R activities.
  • Increase submissions of research papers by 10 per cent (from the 27 papers in Boston 2009) and enhance the quality of scholarship, particularly that related to citizen-journalistic responsibility.
  • Maintain an updated bibliography, preferably annotated.
  • Facilitate an increase of 10 per cent in submission of research papers related to (a) newer and rapidly evolving technologies such as Twitter or its progeny, or (b) the impact of new writing styles on citizen-journalistic credibility or responsibility.
  • Maintain overall acceptance rate of research competition papers at the current 55.55 per cent to par a course set by the Research Committee (known as the "50 per cent guideline").
  • Publish a teaching compendium to address the curriculum, content and pedagogy areas of the Teaching Committee standards; particular effort may be needed from CCJIG’s teaching standards chair (this will be a goal carried forward from 2007-08).
  • Organize a symposium or other meeting, online or offline, to mark the 20th anniversary – in 2010 – of James Batten's 1990 address that was a bellwether in the citizen journalism movement (this will be a goal modified and carried forward from 2007-08).
  • Continue the top paper awards. (Re-institution of the two $151 "best paper" awards in 2008 may explain part of the 50 per cent jump in paper submissions for Boston 2009).
I wish to record my deep appreciation for the devoted service to our group in 2008-09 by fellow officers Mary Beth Callie, Deborah Chung, Burton St. John, Kirsten A. Johnson, Glenn Scott, Jeff South, Serena Carpenter and Clyde Bentley.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Enhancing credibility, citizen journalism's next great challenge

(Strip courtesy of Scott Adams, 7 Nov. 2004)

What follows is a tweaked version of my piece appearing in the Summer 2009 issue of CCJIG's newsletter (pdf, 364 kb).
Would news audiences accept Jane Doe, the citizen journalist, better if she gained in credibility? Or would she become more credible upon being better accepted?

It’s a causality dilemma that weighs rather comfortably on my mind.

As audiences suffer fewer mainstream choices (due to consolidation of electronic media businesses and closures of newspaper), citizen journalists are emerging as primary catalysts of public affairs deliberations. From theater scans to war analyses and from niche reporting to bailout commentary, non-professionals are provoking our latent intellect, stirring our public empathy, and fragmenting our raw emotion, like never before.

Clearly, Ms. Doe, with her digital camera and URL, is transforming from obscure squeaker to keynote speaker. But is the marketplace of ideas better for it? I sure would like to know.

What I do know is that the citizen reporter is no stopgap expediency. She is here to stay.

In figuring out Ms. Doe's long-haul impact on journalism, I am reminded of one of history’s great lessons: If nothing else, every new technology has managed to transform the credibility in communication.

The Chinese invention of paper about 1900 years ago enabled writing for the record.

Five and a half centuries after that, Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable-type printing transformed European handbills into regime-changing newspapers.

Fast forward another 450 years: Guglielmo Marconi's founding of wireless telegraphy birthed the great medium of radio and then, only some 30 years later, Vladimir Zworykin’s electron scanning tube grew into television.

Eventually in 1970, Robert Maurer et al.’s invention of optic-fiber cable enabled massive telecom networks, and finally RAND Corp.’s Internet spawned a decentralized multitude of blogs.

Generally, it seems that newer the technology the smaller was its gestation period -- and the quicker it gained in credibility.

So what, specifically, is credibility? Perhaps B.J. Fogg of Stanford should answer that one. For citizen journalists, I would suggest credibility is a longitudinal concept -- perceived over time -- which enfolds unfailing attribution to sources, transparency in newsgathering, fair commentary, a 180-degree pan, much narrative detail, and of course logical argument.

The history indicates that we may expect blogs, tweets, iReports and other such technology to get rapidly more credible as it squeezes into the intellectual space historically engaged by legacy professionals.

Amra Tareen of AllVoices is already offering cash incentives for the best Ms. Does because “citizen journalism only works if the content is high quality.” Arianna Huffington of HuffPo is exploring a “distinction between saving journalism and saving newspapers.”

The New York Times and Boston Globe have collaborated with a personalizable content reader intriguingly named Kindle DX (for “deluxe”), and Fox-owned WJBK is hoping to replace the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News as they transition from daily home delivery to thrice a week in order to survive.

Regardless of business model – using donations (spot.us), using volunteers (chitowndailynews.org), going nonprofit (voiceofsandiego.org) or aggregating (everyblock.com) – there can be no doubt that citizen journalism’s next great challenge is to enhance its own credibility.

I am watching, and I think so is everyone else at the Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group.
Also read: iReport vandals spotlight a challenge
And: AllVoices pioneers credibility ratings for citizen reports
And: "I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism"
And: Journalism comes full circle with civic/citizen movement

Citizen journalism arrives in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's 3MG Media group, which publishes four online newspapers, has opened its servers to citizen journalists.

Why? So that, the group says, "our readers will become an integral part of our news gathering efforts."
It will give Zimbabweans an opportunity to interact and participate in information and events that shape their daily lives.
If you live in Zimbabwe, or feel Zimbabwean, you may write to citizen@3mgmedia.ca for more information.

"For healthy media, half of income should come from subscriptions"

OhmyNews founder-CEO Oh Yeon-ho is a robust frontiersman of tech Korea. And here is his theory of health:
"For a news media to remain healthy, it will have to earn at least 50% of its income from the sales of content or paid subscriptions. Despite our best effort, OhmyNews still relies on advertisers for more than 70% of its revenue," Oh said.

He added that if 100,000 readers joined the venture contributing KRW 10,000 a month, OhmyNews would be able to survive without relying on advertising revenues.

Buy why only online start-ups? Pay-ever-more-for-content may be good strategy -- nay, an inescapable reality -- for traditional media too. Consider this: In the first quarter of 2009, newspaper advertising plummeted almost 30 per cent, magazine advertising revenue fell more than 20 per cent, and broadcast television revenue slipped nearly 12 per cent.

Also read: "Stop giving away content via Web, Walter Isaacson advises media"
Can selling news via the Web save newspapers?
Can selling news via the Web save newspapers?
"A sustainable model emerges"

"Charity and volunteering are O.K., but news still needs a business model"

With more and more newspapers, including the venerated New York Times, considering or receiving charity, CUNY don Jeff Jarvis wonders if "the tin cup [is to] be the sole support of journalism" in any "new ecosystem of news."

Mr. Jarvis then answers the question. 
But in that ecosystem, gifts of money and effort will have their place. Except I prefer not to look at this as charity. That assumes the newspaper produces, owns and controls the asset that is the news. If, instead, we define news as the province of a larger ecosystem of which a newspaper - or its successor news organisation - is merely a member, then help no longer looks like charity. It looks like collaboration.
Check out his blog post here.

Citizen journalism workshop in Detroit area

If you live in a northern suburb of Detroit and would like to be a citizen journalist, read on.

The Journal Register Company-owned Independent Newspapers, Inc., plans to offer a three-hour workshop for budding citizen journalists.

To be held in New Baltimore, Michigan (just north of Lake St. Clair), the workshop will be free of cost to participants, and held in the premises of The Voice Newspapers at 51180 Bedford St., New Baltimore, MI 48047.

Residents of Macomb county and around may contact workshop organizer Jeff Payne at 586-716-8100 (ext. 304) to register. In a brief telephone conversation, Mr. Payne said the date and time of the workshop would be decided based on the number and preferences of the participants.

INI's site indicates that the company publishes more than two dozen community newspapers in four states.

iReport vandals spotlight a challenge

It seems the rosier the apples, the closer one must look.

Consider this story about iReport, a poster child of mainstream media's dalliance with citizen journalism. 
CNN's iReport citizen journalism site was vandalized again last night with a false report claiming that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was "found dead in his multimillion dollar beachfront mansion" after a coke binge with "male dancers everywhere."
It's likely the work of 4chan message board goons, upset over a report that AT&T was blocking the site for its broadband customers. . . .
[The false story] highlights the risk of high-profile news organizations like CNN running citizen journalism sites.
More here.

So what got those apples bad? Was it the boorishness of a big corporation? Regardless , can citizen journalism always expect succor in a marketplace of ideas? Or is there need for a regulator within? These questions may, in themselves, contain the vandals' unintended lessons.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visit the Christian Science Monitor during AEJMC convention

Note: This event was a late addition to the Newspaper Division lineup, so details do not appear in the division's convention preview LeadTime newsletter and will not be in the formal convention program. It developed from an invitation from the Monitor to AEJMC members that arrived after the deadline for both publications.
For additional information or to RSVP, contact Newspaper Division Head Jack Rosenberry via e-mail: jrosenberry [at] sjfc.edu.

The Christian Science Monitor:
After 100 years, a radically new future

Representatives of the Christian Science Monitor will discuss its shift from daily print to Web-first journalism in a special event taking place during the AEJMC convention in Boston.

The meeting in the Monitor building, which is just across the street from the convention hotel, will take place 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday Aug. 5. Reservations are required by Friday July 31 so that Monitor officials can be told how many to expect. To RSVP, contact Newspaper Division Chair Jack Rosenberry via e-mail: jrosenberry [at] sjfc.edu.

This will be an opportunity to learn about a respected journalistic institution, rub elbows with colleagues, and visit a landmark Boston address. Light refreshments will be served.

The event will include a tour of the Monitor’s newsroom and talk about how editors and managers view its groundbreaking shift from daily print to Web-first journalism while continuing their commitment to international and national news coverage. Participants will be able to get their take on how well the new three-pronged publishing strategy is working and what the reader reaction has been to the mix of daily online news coverage, a weekly print magazine, and an e-mailed subscription news briefing.

It will begin in the “Quotes” CafĂ© in the Christian Science Publishing Society lobby. This building, which houses the Monitor’s newsroom, is part of Church Center plaza, across the street from the Sheraton Boston hotel. To enter the building, walk along the reflecting pool and make a diagonal right turn at the corner of the church. As you near Massachusetts Avenue the main entrance is on the right, just past the entrance designated as the Monitor’s.