More potshots from the press

The mainstream media has a short memory of its own sins when it comes to measuring the journalistic value of citizen media:

Citizen journalism can be a wonderful thing. In a news media world that’s ever shrinking, with journalists being asked to do more with less, the voices in newsrooms are fewer. Having community members who are interested in the issues and who have no problem getting involved can provide us with unique perspectives, alternate information and make us think outside the box. These are all good things for journalism and democracy.

But when these citizen journalists hide behind the anonymity the Internet provides it can get really ugly, really quick. Lies and misinformation can spread like wildfire.

I’m not saying that I, or any other journalist, is perfect. We’re certainly not. But we stand by what we write, with our names and contact information handy when our imperfections come out.

Here’s a short and incomplete list of how members of the mainstream media has failed to live up to expectations:

Stephen Glass..
Janet Cooke.
Jayson Blair.
Exploding GM pickup trucks.

Not a citizen journalist in the bunch.

Back in the day (2002) we called this ‘fisking’

Bloggers and people powered media of all kinds have used their powers to check the accuracy of the mainstream media. Now, we’re more and more using the power of the press to check and accuracy of all online journalism. And there’s a lot of bad stuff out there.

The internet, for all its benefits of spreading knowledge, is also saturated with disinformation. Right now, for instance, images are flooding in from social media that claim to accurately document the destruction taking place in Gaza. But according to the BBC, some of these date from years ago or actually show scenes from Syria or Iraq, and the organisation has urged people to verify images before sharing them.

This is old news to citizen journalist Brown Moses, who made his name crowdsourcing information in conflict zones, such as analysing weapons in Syria. “It’s quite incredible for me to see images from ‘Gaza’ and recognising that half of them are coming from Syria,” he told me. But he isn’t on the ground, checking the facts. Instead, he does it all from his front room in Leicester, England.

Brown Moses, or Eliot Higgins to use his AFK name, makes use of social media, open source tools, and public information to verify details that news organizations can miss. Today, he’s launching a site to pool his and others knowledge together in one place.

And here’s the definition of “fisking.”

‘Physical attacks against Vietnamese bloggers on the rise’

Surprise! The communists who run Vietnam aren’t any nicer to bloggers than the punks in Alabama who toss bloggers in jail:

On May 25, 2014, a Vietnamese blogger and human rights activist, Tran Thi Nga, was seriously injured during a violent attack in Hanoi, a local human rights organization reported.

Tran Thi Nga, a savvy social media user in documenting human right abuses in Vietnam, was returning home after visiting fellow blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy when five men—now suspected to be undercover police members—surrounded her motor bike, on which she was riding with her two children, the report said. The assailants attacked Tran Thi Nga in front of her children and chased her before beating her with a metal pole. The blogger sustained serious injuries to her knee, arm, and back.

This unfortunate incident comes at a time of similar orchestrated attacks against bloggers and social media users in Vietnam. Four other distinct incidents have occurred since March 2014.


Here’s the situation. The authorities in Vietnam share something with the punks in Alabama who arrested Legal Schnauser publisher Roger Shuler. They KNOW he’s a journalist. They didn’t jail him because he wasn’t a reporter. They jailed him because he was, and to date they are getting away with it.  His blog hasn’t been updated since May 13.

In Vietnam, there is little Tran Thi Nga can do, except hope public outrage can sway calmer heads in her country’s government.

Citizen journalism looking up with Google Glass

Via Gizmodo:

Wearables work really well for breaking news alerts,” said Lindsey Dew, Software Developer. “You don’t even need to check your phone, it’s delivered straight to you. It’s great for seeing precisely what’s happening now, and delivering the exact information you need to know. The challenge we have is how do you also deliver detail, as you are limited by the UI. We’ve added ‘Save for Later’ functionality in the Guardian Glassware app, letting people send long-form journalism to their phones.”

More pertinent than news delivery, the Guardian team sees Glass’s potential sitting with creating breaking news reports. Glass can be a powerful tool for budding amateur reporters looking to add to the growing pool of “citizen journalism”.

“The scope for something like ‘citizen journalism’ with something like Glass is massive,” said Dew. “It’s a step ahead of mobile phones. That’s what Glass is really out to do — not to distract you, but to enable you to capture the moment.”

Citizen journalism is kicking butt in Syria

Via Science Codex:

Citizen reporters are increasingly getting stories out of remote areas of Syria, which are difficult for traditional media to reach during the conflict, according to data collated for Index on Censorship magazine.

It showed more reports were coming from citizen journalists than traditional media, in all areas of the country, with the exception of Homs.

Index on Censorship magazine worked with Syria Tracker, the independent news tracker, which has scanned 160,000 news reports and social media updates to look at the scale of citizen journalism. Syria Tracker verifies and analyses data before publishing on its own website. Only 6 per cent of data is considered to be well enough sourced to be published.

Can nanotransactions save online journalism? Answer: Yes

From StartUpSmart:

Nick Ross, the ABC’s editor of technology and games, has begun crowdfunding a project called Nanotransactions, which allows publishers and blogging communities to charge users a few cents to access each piece of content.

As with prepaid mobile accounts, Ross’ model sees users top their accounts using the online payment system of their choice, including bitcoin, to a minimum amount of $5.

Unlike current micropayment systems, which charge publishers up to 30 cents per transaction, the Nanotransaction model is envisaged to involve a charge of just one cent for an article with an access charge of up to nine cents.
The system will also be web-based, meaning users won’t need to download a specific app in order to access content.

I dunno. Seems awful inconvenient to me. I better mail in my payment for at home delivery of yesterday’s news so I can get all those coupons for out-of-town stores I’ll never visit.

The fact of the matter is, any payment system that delivers content of a viable and vibrant online-only version of your daily newspaper will invariably be cheaper and more efficient than the paperboy delivery model in use today.

‘Oakland Voices Empowers Citizen Journalism’

Via Axiom News:

Community members are being trained to produce news for local news organizations through a program sparked by the desire to see the Oakland Tribune do a better job connecting with the community beyond the pages of the paper.

The program, Oakland Voices, will be starting its third class and second cohort of 10 East Oakland, California citizens this month. The class will engage in a nine-month training program to create news on an independent website and for the Oakland Tribune, says Martin G. Reynolds, co-founder of the program. He formed the idea when he was editor in chief at the Oakland Tribune in 2009.

“I’ve always felt that a newspaper should be a place of convening,” he says. “What better way to convene than by empowering residents from communities often left out of the conversation to participate?”

An interesting discussion of citizen journalism

This article is about how to use and credit photos and images gleaned from Facebook and Twitter, but it touches on the ethical responsibilities of citizen journalists:

When news breaks, many media organizations turn to social media to find members of the public who become a reporter’s eyes and ears on the ground.

Collecting information in this way has many challenges – for example, verifying that a photo posted on Twitter is real. The key to solving these challenges is holding contributions from citizen journalists to the same ethical standards as work by professional journalists.

That was the main focus of a SXSW Interactive session by Associated Press social media editor Eric Carvin and Digital First Media managing editor Mandy Jenkins.

“If you don’t hold citizen journalists to the same standards, you are disrespecting social media as a tool for journalism,” Carvin said. Figuring out the best way to apply those standards is the hard part.


I sometimes can give the impression that all bets are off when it comes to citizen journalism, or “people powered media.” Not true. We aren’t as constrained as the corporate media, but we have some ethical considerations.