Guest Column: Crowdsourced journalism has become a staple of new media outlets and legacy outlets alike: Kate Olsen, Senior VP, WeberShandwick Social Impact
While every person with a camera phone and a social media profile is a potential citizen journalist, the true power of crowdsourced journalism lies in the ability to combine the immediacy of real-time information with a process to verify that information
The idea that everyday citizens can and should contribute to the information that shapes the news is not new, but it was greatly enabled by the advent of the internet and then further empowered by the rise of social media. Sometimes called ‘citizen journalism,’ crowdsourced journalism was originally conceived mainly as a check on mainstream media. However, in the wake of events such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Arab Spring protests and more recent social movements, crowdsourced journalism has become a staple of new media outlets and legacy outlets alike. And in between are new tools to enable crowdsourcing and real-time information to enhance journalism across the board.
CROWDSOURCING IN LEGACY MEDIA
For legacy outlets, the practice of crowdsourcing provides additional resources for fact-checking and verification, data and information access and investigative legwork. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford published a helpful analysis of crowdsourcing in investigative journalism with compelling examples from The Guardian in the UK, NPR in the U.S., Helsingin Sanomat in Finland, among others. And we have a fairly current example of crowdsourced investigative journalism facilitated by David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post, who was investigating the charitable activity of the new President in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
CROWDSOURCING TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY
The media industry is supported by new technology efforts such as Google’s News Lab, which seeks to make the world’s information universally organised and accessible and provide tools, data and programmes designed to help news organisations. Similarly, the non-profit Internews aims to give communities the resources needed to produce quality, independent and verified news and information locally. Additionally, there are several open data corruption platforms, such as the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection Website App in China or I Paid a Bribe in India, that are helping journalists expose patterns of corruption.
PURE PLAY CROWDSOURCED NEWS
While every person with a camera phone and a social media profile is a potential citizen journalist, the true power of crowdsourced journalism lies in the ability to combine the immediacy of real-time, on the ground information (often shared through social networks) with a process to verify and fact check that information and ultimately analyse all aggregated information to uncover trends and insights that will inform the public. Several media enterprises seek to do just that. Here is a sample of notable crowdsourced news sites: Global Voices is a largely volunteer community of people who curate, verify and translate news from the internet, from blogs, independent press and social media in 167 countries. Grasswire uses an open newsroom (facilitated by a Slack channel) to source first-hand verified information crowdsourced from Twitter users in real-time. Newzulu International is a network of over 100,000 citizen journalists, backed by a team of editors who validate submissions and license content across 7,000 newspapers, websites and magazines. Citizen journalists are compensated through licensing fees. ProPublica was founded by a former editor of The Wall Street Journal and is a non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. The platform collaborates with 139 publishing partners to distribute its news stories across media.
(The author is Senior Vice President and Global Thought Leadership Lead for Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact practice)
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