Posts Tagged citizen journalism
With the rise of the Web 2.0, more and more people get to express themselves on the Internet: by contributing to a personal blog, answering to a poll on a website or making comments on any event the web is talking about. Today, those contributions can be neatly managed by news organisations to make you participate to their news production. And this is the object of this blog’s entry: crowdsourcing the news.
The crowd likes to be involved
Jeff Howe is the man who coined the term “crowdsourcing” in 2006 in an article called “The Rise of crowdsourcing.” At the time he was a contributing editor of the Wired magazine. Now he tends to be perceived as The Crowdsourcing expert. But you may wonder…
What is crowdsourcing?
As Jeff Howe well expressed it, crowdsourcing is a process of involving the public, the crowd, into a task by an open call. And this process if often made through a website. The definition could include many sorts of calls, indeed. To a large extent, crowdsourcing can be applied to solving a scientific problem, as the company InnoCentive started to do in 2001, or as IStockphotos managed in outsourcing the task of photographing an event to a voluntary crowd instead of hiring a professional photographer for instance.
Crowdsourcing takes many forms. But one thing makes it unique: it empowers the crowd. As the crowd represents different brains, different competences, it can be even more creative, efficient, innovative and influent than a single man working in his office on a task he has no grasp into.
How news organisations make the most of it?
In the context of Journalism, you can well imagine that the journalist and the news organisation one can work for were primarily the only gatekeepers of news, and you were waiting for them to be informed. If there was a place for you to communicate with the newspaper, there was the “letters to the editor”, and not many more.
Today news organisations have their websites. Moreover, if you give a closer look to them, you will notice they even make a space for you to act and communicate. Not by solely adding comments. There is more!
In England, the BBC has launched Have your Say ; in the USA, CNN opened iReport. And the Swiss news organisations are not the last: The RTS has Vos infos and The 20minutes has the Lecteur-Reporter’s platform. All fell in the new trend. They all let you the chance to be part of their work, or in other words: now the news need you.
As a million of events happen across the world, reporters and journalists cannot cover them all. This is where the audience is powerful: it can improve their coverage.
When terrorists set off a series of bombs on buses and subways in London, who produced the most riveting images and sound bites? The passengers and their cell phones.”  When an accident occur next to your home, or on your way to work, you are the first witness of the event and no professional reporter could catch the same tension you were able to grasp when it happens.
With a single photo, a video, a short message, you can make a newsroom get up. You can even make it change its editorial agenda.
For Bernard Rappaz, Editor in chief at the RTS in Switzerland, crowdsourcing makes a news media quicker than before. Using Twitter, Facebook, and their crowdsourcing tool on their website, the members of the newsroom can compete with the news agencies they are sometimes dependent on. As Mathieu Coutaz confirms himself: it allows the staff to be the first on the scene and to be always closer to the stories that interest the people their work for.
Mathieu Coutaz is the content manager for 20minutes online in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The 20minutes is The daily newspaper distributed in Switzerland and this, for free. Its platform “lecteur-reporteur” has been launched in 2006 and the newspaper rewards any contributions that it eventually publishes on its web. What is most, “50% to 70% of the contributions that are selected go on the print edition” Mathieu Coutaz explains. And he emphasises one fundamental point that cannot be neglected: your photos and stories go through a process of verification before getting anything done. “When verified, the contributions of the audience can influence the editorial agenda on the temporal and hierarchical aspects. If it has to be treated before another news, and if the story is worth being published at the top of our agenda, then of course we do it.”
Crowdsourcing does not ask readers to become anything more than what they’ve always been: eyewitness to their daily lives.
In that sense the news organisations save their first role of gatekeepers: the readers don’t write the stories, they only contribute to it: the final decision of its treatement and broadcast still lies in the professional’s hands.
Crowdsourcing at risks
In an interesting article, Darren Gilbert warns that “crowdsourcing can be as advantageous as it can be dangerous.” Although readers are willing to contribute to the news, some are able to get a journalist on the wrong track. He takes the example of a recent scandal that occurred in the United States: a company named Journatic published news gathered from the public. And there were actually wrong!
In Switzerland, all the news platforms I discovered ask for the name and mail address of the contributors, in order to be able to get back to him/her. A mail address can be fake, indeed, but in any case, Swiss news organsations do the verification before publishing, which can avoid some serious faux pas.
To cope it all, crowdsourcing may well bring the public and the news organisation closer than before. It may establish a new relationship between the public and the news media: a trust that could have been lost. But it still needs to be well used in order not to lose what crowdsourcing is for journalism: a relevant tool to make the crowd part of the work, for a better and substantial result.
I am now turning to you
Have you ever contributed to the news of your local newspaper?
What do you think of the crowdsourcing concept regarding journalism?
And to go further…
A new trend in crowdsourcing is for journalists to use special crowdsourcing platforms to gather the information they couldn’t find from their places, such as Ushahidi‘s platform, specialised in mapping crowdsourcing information.
The TED talks also got into the crowdsourcing concept, here is a talk held by Paul Lewis about the impact of crowdsourcing the news for investigative journalism.
And to be always up to date with the last seminars about crowdsourcing and journalism, have a look at the European Journalism Center’s website, it’s worth it!
By Céline Bilardo
 Howe, J. 2008. Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business. 1st ed. USA: Ed.Crown Business. p.212.
Radio, television, Internet and now smartphones, journalism is constantly faced with new technological revolutions. In the past decade, mobile phones became an essential part of our lives. Smartphones are practical and personal, their touchscreans look like paper and nowadays, a large part of the population owns one. All day long in our pocket, they allow us to access to any information at any time. With this new generation of mobiles, news is faster than ever and always accessible. You might even read this post on your smartphone.
Information on mobile is a revolution equivalent to what Gutenberg did.
Benoît Raphaël, chief editor of the Post
A new way for consumers to get news
In the United States, half of the population use mobile internet through a smartphone (44% against 35% in 2011) or on tablets (22% against 11% in 2011). Considering that 62% of owners of smartphones use them to get news, it’s a massive increase that changes how information is now consume and financed.
Even at home, people still use their mobiles to get information.
This new technology became an huge challenge and opportunity for media to get new content and to distribute it. Journalism must reinvent itself once more. People want to use their cellphones to get informations, then journalists have to evolve and provide an online and mobile version of their content. But smartphones are even more then that. Their use is not limited only to reading information, they can be used by journalists to find, treat and publish information too.
An other side of this technology that I’m going to talk about later, is the fact that it changes citizen journalism. Web 2.0 with his blogs and social networks have created citizen journalism and smartphones are speeding it up. In fact, it became a lot easier for citizen to publish information. Since you have a smartphone in your pocket, you can directly film, take photos and transmit them through the Internet.
How can journalists get and treat information with their Smartphones ?
Our cellphones are not only phones anymore, they’re like a small computer that can be used for work. That’s why most journalists are now equipped with one. This way, they are always connected to the Internet and they can at any moment, search for latest news.
But above, smartphones can be used as tools. They are recorders and cameras, that can replace proper material for some occasions. Journalists should be multitasks and this devices make it easier. No need to be an expert in video or photography, applications on smartphones are within the reach of everyone.
In addition to the camera included on the phone – that are more performant every day – some applications exist that can be really useful for journalists. This is particularly the case for video editing apps, used by journalists to work on their reports, directly from their touchscreans. For the Iphone, different applications are available, like Splice and iMovie.
And once the video is edited, we can share it with Qik for exemple. A free application from the same editor as Skype, that can also be used to cover live events with its streaming function.
There are plenty of mobile applications that are useful for journalists. The Knight Center of Journalism in the America’s blog of the University of Texas at Austin gives you a selection of five apps that every journalist should have.
We know that journalism is constantly changing and faced with new revolutions. And this mobile technology is one for the media.
It’s changing the way to work and the organisation of the redactions. With mobile devices, the journalism landscape is not the same anymore and for field journalists, smartphones have a prominent place in their work
Do we publish news on a phone application the same way as on a newspaper ?
Definitely not. People don’t read news on smartphones like on newspapers or even news sites. That is why medias have to create mobiles versions of their content that can be read with cellphones.
And how to do that ? Sentences and paragraphs should be shorter. Users can consult their news applications at any time but they don’t dedicate as much time as to newspapers. Moreover, it can be difficult to focus on a long text if it’s on a small screen. So journalists have to be able to reveal facts in a short way.
Headlines and subheads are important as well, they need to be really good worked to attract the attention of readers. This is true for newspapers too, but it became even more with the Internet, where information is overloaded.
We can also give a brief summary of the story, that users can read quickly on their phones. The idea here, is to bait people and to push them to read more about an information on an other support, that allow journalists to write a more detailed article, like newspapers or even websites.
An other important issue are videos and photos, they should illustrate the article and published along with the text, because it facilitates the reading. Likewise, they should be put on top of the topic to be easily accessible by mobile viewers.
Smartphones are giving a new life to citizen journalism
The distinct border between who consumes news and who produces it, is gradually becoming thinner. I’m not saying that journalism doesn’t exist anymore because anyone could do it, but that anyone can transmit information and facts. News consumers are often news producers as well. Imagine that you are witness of an unannounced protest or something like that, you’ll probably take photos and put them on the Internet. Thus, you can be considered as a news producer or a citizen journalist.
Online citizen journalism took his first steps with the transition to web 2.0 and with mobile devices, it became easier then ever. Smartphones allow you to take photos, videos and directly post them through the net. It’s fast, easy and free. Moreover, it can usually be seen by a lot of people and even become viral.
Most of the time, people post this kind of news and their own reporting, from their cellphones directly to social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms are often used for these purposes because they’re so accessible with smartphones applications. No need for much writing, a few words and a photo are enough to transmit a news. Then, people post status updates, notes, photos and videos from events regularly and often before mainstream media.
Therefore, this kind of news can be really useful for journalists. That way a journalist can be everywhere. If he finds something interesting that has been posted by someone in Twitter, he can include it in his own publication. So it can be a new tool for journalists to find information.