As someone who works for a media organization looking to tap into Citizen Journalism, I found Jan Schaffer blog post – J-Lab Report: What Works For Hyperlocal News Sites – to be most interesting. Her post references a report she published in September 2010 on behalf of the Knight Foundation titled New Voices: What Works Lessons From Funding Five Years of Community News Startups.
I found the following comments from Schaffer’s blog post particularly interesting:
One of our biggest learning curves is this: It doesn’t pay to train whole classes of “citizen” journalists. While you’ll be doing wonders for advancing digital media skills in your community, you won’t end up with a reliable corps of contributors for your news site. Ordinary citizens, armed with good intentions, are just too busy.
Citizen journalism turns out to be a high-churn, high-touch enterprise – one that requires a full-time community manager.
Insights I will certain keep in mind.
Nice video on starting a Citizen Journalism organization from the folks at The Uptake:
Hat tip to the Ben Franklin Journalism site for the link.
An interesting look behind the scenes at Citizen Journalism startup AllVoices – from PBS Mediashift:
There are some interesting observations and comments in this video that shed insight into the core competencies of the future news organization. From the first part of the video, a few observations:
- Low cost structure – The company employees relatively few staff, where each person where a lot of different hats – the prototypical startup
- Community Management – Strong emphasis on Community Management, and the role of the Community Manager
- Copyright – A need to manage copyright violations – for both professional and user-generated content – which AllVoices manages by NLP algorithms (recognizing sequences of 5 identical terms)
- Marketing – The Community has become the evangelist for AllVoices, which has helped AllVoices tremendously in creating buzz. People promote their content on Social Networks and other sites. AllVocies depends on their community to do their marketing for them … it’s all about the Community.
The second part of the video (starting at approx 5:29) is an interview with AllVoices’ CEO Amra Tareen and VP Social Media, Erik Sundelof. Some insightful quotes in this segment. Here’s a few:
Amra Tareen: So when AllVoices started, what we wanted to do was create a place where people could report regardless of where they are, from any device – cell phone, computer, using MMS, SMS, e-mail, or just going to the website.
When they send us something, what we want to do is geolocate – where exactly is it coming from? In AllVoices, we can detect locations down to any place greater than 500 people … So any city in the world we can detect where the message or report is coming from.
And then we try to geolocate, based on the IP address, based on the cell phone #, based on any tags the user adds to their text.
Amra Tareen: Now there are two types of content that come into AllVoices. One is “user reported”, the other is what our system aggregates from news sources and news feeds all around the world.
So, first, we geolocate, we categorize – whether you’re talking about Politics, Conflict and Tragedy, Sports, Entertainment. Then what we do is break it down, do contextual analysis to “bag of worlds“.
Then based on those bag of words, … we want to showcase the user report, as well as create context around that report by aggregating related information.
… Since we already break it down into keywords, we know what the tags are for that user report. But we let the user add the tags themselves. Because sometimes the machines are not always as accurate as the user is. And that’s what we’ve learned – AllVoices is based on Machine Learning and the Community, and the Community always corrects the Machine Learning.
So some interesting stuff here. Once again (that is, I have strongly advocated this position in previous posts), the future of Journalism will be significantly about a balance between Machine Learning and the Community … and the many, many technologies that support the interface between the two.
Let’s see what Erik Sundelof, AllVoices’ VP Social Media, has to say:
Erik Sundelof: If you are doing cell phone reporting or “in the field” reporting, you have to bring in the context, and [show people that context].
At All Voices, we try to bring in all the different content and media types … By doing this, you will also be able to determine how credible a particular report is.
If user content is coming in very short, very opinionated peices – which I really think is what Citizen Journalism should be about, bringing in the more emotional side, and telling what is really going on on the ground – that doesn’t mean that it’s fact checked. But you can’t fact check the complete flow of information in free-form. So you have to apply technology on top of it.
How does AllVoices’ system deal with “hoaxes” reported by the community?
Erik Sundelof: The way we are attacking the “hoaxes” problem is through “credibility”. A hoax is just another story. We’re still going to apply the same methodology, because everything is a computerized [algorithim]. So this means if the hoax comes in, and no one is talking about it, then it will just drop off the system. It will still have a page, because it’s a free publishing platform. So you will get your page, but it won’t show in the landing pages because no one will view it.
Amra Tareen: And each page has a credibility rating. So every report in AllVoice has a 5-bar credibility rating. So based on the activity level, based on similirity of content we find on AllVoices and off of AllVoices, I think the likelihood of a hoax being report is small, compared to some person individually fact-checking, and trying to figure it out.
Interesting perspectives – again, particular around the intersection of machine learning and the crowd-sourced journalism and content.
A very interesting video on Citizen Journalism done by Cambridge Community Television in 2006. Here it is:
In particular, I thought the video’s comparison of the rise of today’s Citizen Journalism in the form of blogs with the rise of pamphleteering in the US in the 1760s and 1770s was most interesting. Quoting Chris Daly, Professor of Journalism at Boston University:
There’s a really fascinating movement that grows up quite spontaneously of people who have strong opinions that they’re afraid to publish in the normal channels. They develop an alternative kind of press in the 1760s and certainly gets roaring in the 1770s, and this consists of what are known as pamphlets or broadsides. It’s all a form of guerrilla-style journalism.
Now probably the ultimate example of this style of journalism – the use of pamphlets to get around the problems of being part of the establishment – had to be the career of Tom Paine. Because what Paine did was write the most popular pamphlet of his time. In January of 1776, he wrote the pamphlet called Common Sense.
This is why in the first ammendment we have enshrined this right to the free press. That’s so we could have media, because at that point a major form of political discourse was publishing your own pamphlets, or publishing your own newspapers.
Fascinating. Of course, what followed this earlier period explosion of citizen journalism in America was a revolution. Hmm, will there be a parallel this time ’round?
BTW, I discovered this video via this blog post: Citizen Journalism: The Key Trend Shaping Online News Media – Introductory Guide With Videos. It’s a nice piece, even if the preponderance of advertising is somewhat annoying.
Interesting workflow tool for crowdsourcing videos from a community.
I think this application – The Extraordinaries – at least conceptually, is very cool. So if I have this right, this is an iPhone app which sends you citizen journalism assignments that you can choose to pursue or not depending on your interest, location, time of day, etc.