Citizen Journalism

Over at the P2P Foundation (a resource for trends and technologies related to participatory culture) there is a great video of Ethan Zuckerman discussing citizen Journalism and Global Voices a Citizen Journalism project he co-founded. While at LunchoverIP, Bruno Giussani talks about the three ingredients for the future of Journalism. (Originally published in KnightForum)

Zuckerman talks about 3 distinct models for Citizen Journalism:

  • Opportunistic – being in the right place at the right time
  • Participatory – creating or engaging around a themed project
  • Citizen Experts –subject matter experts deepening discussion

Giussani builds on Zuckerman thinking filling out with links, quotes and insights on technologies and processes that newsrooms need.

Both see differences in the role of traditional journalists and citizen journalists with the former more focused on temporal events and the latter public and personal reaction to those events – but that relationship is symbiotic.

Giussani takes these models and relates them to the ingredients that the newsroom needs to manage. He sees three broad trends:

  • Assembled media – embedding info assembled elsewhere
  • Read/Write Media – involving the ‘audience’
  • Media as Places – connection points for community

The point being media no longer directs the conversation, it participates – and the better it harnesses that participation the more value adheres to it.

There is also an interesting discussion of objectivity and impartiality vs transparency and disclosure. The question is “Is it possible to be impartial & objective?” or are you better off accepting that everyone has an agenda and being transparency about your bias’s and while disclosing any affiliations that might relate to the story. With a lot of citizen journalism it’s easier to understand the biases and affiliations because the underlying technology makes it easy to assemble numerous articles by the author – either because they’re already grouped, as in blogs, or can be searched and indexed. 

Unless one understands bias it’s difficult to understand how thorough and fair a piece of reporting is. In fact one of the interesting participatory citizen journalism projects is NewsTrust which uses citizen involvement to rate the fairness, balance and originality of news stories.

What’s interesting is that the many of the issues that Zuckerman and Giussani identify apply to any online communities, taken together though they are insightful bases for a new relationship to the audience and discussion that surrounds every media.

By developing a language to discuss the types of roles and relationships that emerge as a result of online activity, and by connecting them to traditional media the strengths of different strategies emerge.

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