- Greg J Smith, at Serial Consign interviewed me recently.
"David provided me with an engaging view into the world of contemporary
journalism and the potential for a sweeping reconfiguration of the
profession in light of connectivity, social media and new business
- My buddy Richard Morgan has a great piece in Wired today
All your MoonBase Are Belong to Us
"Today, countries battle for a piece of the Arctic. Tomorrow? The Moon.
- Some thoughts on science journalism and web 2.0 over at NewAssignment.ne.
"And science journalism, which de-facto covers a "boring" subject to lots of people, can only benefit by creating a vibrant community of people who have a passion for the subject. What science journalism needs are people who criticize science because they love science (as opposed to people who criticism because they don’t believe in science)."
Monthly archives for November, 2007
I’m late to reblog this, but that’s because of current travels. To make up for that: This is my second blog post today — and a third is on the way! This post is about a recent Press Gazette article I wrote about citizen journalism.
In early September I wrote a post trying to distinguish various acts of citizen journalism. It was one of those longer/labor of love posts.
It came about because of my frustration when other journalists throw terms around without a clear definition of what they mean. We are in the business of words, you’d think that if we come up with unique types of journalism we wouldn’t use them so casually. But on a regular basis I hear “networked journalsim” “citizen journalism” “open source journalism” and “crowdsourced journalism” all used interchangeably. I don’t remember who I was on the phone with, but I remember having a conversation with a journalist who, talking about the same project, used several of these as synonyms.
Eventually I cut them off and asked “well, which is it? What you are talking about are different types of acts that require different tools and approaches.”
They are not interchangeable. Martin Stabe, a UK link blogger I admire, asked me to re-write that post.
The following is a look at five types of citizen journalism. It is inspired in a large part by Steve Outing’s post on the 11 layers of citizen journalism.
It has always been a contentious term. David Cohn unravels the different breeds comprising the new species known as citizen journalists, and explains why mainstream journalists need to clear the air
Citizen journalism, like the term “wiki”, is a phrase that has been reborn online. But unlike “wiki”, which we know translates to “fast” in Hawaiian and now refers to websites that anyone can edit, the definition of “citizen journalism” remains vague and contested.
One explanation for the controversy surrounding “citizen journalism” is the various synonyms it has. “Participatory journalism”, “stand-alone journalism”, “networked journalism”, “open source journalism”, “crowdsourced journalism” – without reflection, they all mean the same thing and are used interchangably to describe when citizens help collect, report, distil and broadcast news.
But to me, all these terms refer to different acts. They are related to “citizen journalism”, but each is a unique species that has evolved out of the larger family of social media.
Networked journalism and stand-alone journalism are both related to and encompassed by “citizen journalism”, but they are distinct from each other. If we understand them as unique acts, then the term “citizen journalism”, from which they have evolved, becomes less charged and easier to define. I believe journalists need to think critically about how to clear the air around citizen journalism.
This is the act that started it all and while “Citizen journalism” with a capital “C” refers to an entire class of terms, and hence the confusion, if we are talking about a single act of “citizen journalism”, we most often are discussing an individual, who is not a paid journalist, who bares witness to a newsworthy event and broadcasts it. Acts of citizen journalism in this sense happen by mere coincidence. People are everywhere and when disaster strikes, someone usually has a camera.
In contrast to citizen journalism, this is when the individual isn’t reporting out of happenstance. The reporter, who is not acting as a “professional”, made a conscious choice to go out and investigate a topic. This term was coined by Chris Nolan at Spot-on.com.
When professional and amateur journalists work together it is the most basic form of “citizen journalism” that news organisations tend to engage in. It occurs through basic comments on an article – when those comments add extra information, examples, or new views that the original writer left out. These comments can be an incredible source of value to a story and are very easy to invoke. This is the basis of “pro-am journalism”. Thus, reporters need to learn the art of community management; and acknowledge that they now have a nuanced relationship with readers.
Although it hasn’t reached its full potential, the idea is to organise groups of people through the internet to work on a single story. Like stand-alone journalism, it is a conscious decision, but large groups, rather than a lone reporter, do the work. Networked journalism rests its fate on two principles: the “wisdom of crowds” – the idea that collectives are more intelligent than individuals – and “distributed reporting” – the art of organising the online work flow, so that volunteers are efficient and happy to participate in a gift economy that produces news.
“Open source journalism”
Like networked journalism, these projects are collaborative. They have multiple points or “sources” of information. But open source journalism adds an important element. Either a) the re-release of stories or b) sharing information among competitors. These factors make a project “open.”
The re-release of stories
In networked journalism, people work in collaboration on a single story. In open source, they work together on a story that is constantly refined and republished in public. Imagine a journalist who releases a story to the public. Then, using participatory or networked journalism, more reporting and information is added and the story is reworked and republished. This method can produce amazing results. Covering an election, you’ll need a definitive story once the results are in. An open source story will feel very anti-climatic. But covering development in a community, the story will probably last several months, lending itself to new versions.
While this has major potential, it has yet to be realised. Imagine 100 newspapers covering the same topic: “Local effects of global warming”. Each paper covers its own neighbourhood, gathering the same information, local bird migration, average temperatures and more. Each paper would have a story serving its local readers, but if it shared that information with the other 99 papers, they could create a national view of global warming. You lose the scoop, but you get to be part of a story that is greater than that which your single paper could ever produce.
Citizen journalism no longer needs to be evangelised. As the internet evolves, social media will continue to splinter into different classes, species and breeds of acts that readers can engage in. Citizen journalism is, for better or worse, the rhetoric that journalists have adopted to capture a large class of acts. But in doing so, we have put the cart before the horse. The real question is, what are we allowing readers to do, what types of acts are part of citizen journalism? We need to identify and define them, so we can understand the different approaches we can invoke in a citizen journalism project.
David Cohn is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s school of journalism. He works at NewAssignment.Net, an organisation trying to spur innovation in open-platform journalism, as its director of distributed reporting. He also works for AOL as an “expert social bookmarker”. Cohn’s personal blog can be found at www.digidave.org, which is where he writes on, among other things, the emerging art of distributed reporting.
In case you were curious what the Networked Journalism Summit was all about. We now have a video!
Dad – you get a shout out in the begining from Jeff Jarvis!!!
I didn’t really like watching myself, albiet brief. I was a bit nervous at the begining of the day and did more "umm"ing than I normally do in public speaking. Still, watching the video I remember the day and how much of an overall success it really was.
It seems I’ve been traveling a lot these days. It has been a long time coming though. I haven’t left the country since I was 17. I was always particular about traveling – I didn’t want to "waste" money on it. Not that traveling is a waste, of course, but that I wanted to make sure I was self-sufficient and not just spending my parents money traveling during college. It seems now is that time.
Calgary was interesting (I spoke at a Media and Law Seminar). Now I’m off to Bremen, an industrial town in the North of Germany to take part in another journalism conference. This one will have a focus on science.
Wissenswerte 2007, Bremen Germany: I will be on the panel: Science journalism and Web 2.0.
Am I excited? Yes!
Will it be a vacation? No!
Things I’m Up To
- A link to something I wrote for the Press Gazette. "Time Citizen Journalism Pull Its Acts Together." I will ring more bells and whistles about it soon — as I am particularly proud of it and I think it should be highlighted in its own post. (Thanks to Martin Stabe who first contacted me to write it).
- Sooo excited about the potential behind this: CopyCamp. I brought it up casually to the San Jose Mercury News, which is already rethinking their newsroom and they seemed to like it. Noel Hidalgo, who deserves as much credit as I do in dreaming this concept up, are starting to think about how we can plan this. Expect a LONG post on this sometime soon. If you are in the Bay Area — keep a close eye on www.CopyCamp.us.
- I still have lots to do for Beatblogging. the latest NewAssignment.Net project. I will be making lots of phone calls from Germany. Also need to keep on top of the NewAssignment.Net blog and anything at OffTheBus.Net.
- I’m a little behind in my Propeller duties — I hate feeling like I have to catch up.
- It’s time to turn in my Knight News Challenge Grant (CopyCamp is one of those proposals). Between the three proposals I have in the second round, I’d consider myself a lucky duck if any of them makes it through to the next and final round.
- My phone died on me: I need to get all my old numbers back. If I had your phone number… EMAIL ME
I have a rare occasion here in my Calgary hotel room to collect some thoughts.
Below: My general impression of Calgary. My experience as the resident evangelist of citizen journalism.
Happy go-lucky meetings with local Calgarian geeks — thank goodness we are all connected!