John McCann

Archive for the ‘Citizen Journalism’ Category

Newspaper as social network

In Citizen Journalism, Newspapers, social network on March 8, 2007 at 9:04 pm

I read several related articles and blog posts in the last few days that pertain to the changing nature of newspaper to become, as blogger Steve Rubel notes, a social network. He was referring to changes at, which are presented in an editorial in USA Today. These changes allow people to do the following:

•” See how readers are reacting to stories;
• Recommend stories and comments to other readers;
• Comment directly on stories;
• Participate in discussion forums;
• Write reviews (of movies, music and more);
• Contribute photos;”

These features seem to be a first-step in a transformation that Mark Glaser called for in a blog post on his Mediashift blog. Glaser asks his readers to imagine how newspapers can enter the new age, and then presents several future scenarios that contrasts today’s practices with what he believes they should start doing. Here are a couple of examples:

“The way it is: Editors assign stories to reporters.
The way it will be: The community helps with story generation through special online forums, blogs and other interactive mechanisms.

The way it is: Editors choose which letters to print in the Letters to the Editor section.
The way it will be: An online forum allows all letters to be posted in full.”

There are 19 such pairs in his blog post. A careful reading reveals that Glaser seems to have provided a script that is following. When I read his piece, I think of it as a guide for newspapers to enter the Participation Age.


In Citizen Journalism, Participant observer on December 4, 2006 at 5:43 pm

An article in today’s New York Times reports that “Yahoo and Reuters want you to work for this news service.”

“Hoping to turn the millions of people with digital cameras and camera phones into photojournalists, Yahoo and Reuters are introducing a new effort to showcase photographs and video of news events submitted by the public. Starting tomorrow, the photos and videos submitted will be placed throughout and Yahoo News, the most popular news Web site in the United States, according to comScore MediaMetrix. Reuters said that it would also start to distribute some of the submissions next year to the thousands of print, online and broadcast media outlets that subscribe to its news service. Reuters said it hoped to develop a service devoted entirely to user-submitted photographs and video.”

This is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to the news gathering process. And it is only the latest program being offered by the traditional media. The same article describes similar efforts by CNN and quotes a CNN executive about the philosophy of this new form of journalism.

“Even the best reporters in most cases are approaching the story from the outside in,” said Mitch Gelman, the executive producer of “What a participant observer can offer is the perspective on that story from the inside out. We feel as a news organization we need to provide both to offer full coverage to our audience.”

I love the phrase “participant observer” because it reflects the theme of this blog. We observe many situations every day of our lives. By carrying and using a camera phone, we can now make our observations available to others.

Create the new “news”

In Citizen Journalism, Content workers on September 27, 2006 at 11:47 pm

I just saw a post on the Knight Foundation blog about a new program that provides funds for folks who want to create the next-generation news:

“The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today launches the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge, investing as much as $5 million in its first year in community news projects that best use the digital world to connect people to the real world. The News Challenge is looking to fund new ideas, prototypes, products and leadership initiatives that use innovative news methods to help citizens better connect within their communities. The competition is open to anyone, not just the journalism community.“News and information are the glue that binds communities. We want to help today’s high-tech news do in the 21st century what the Knight brothers’ newspapers did this past century,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. “Through their newspapers, the Knight brothers helped build a sense of community in cities and towns across the country. They did it by providing news, information and commentary that helped citizens understand their common interests and opportunities. The Knight brothers helped define the geography where people lived. We want to continue that tradition using new media to do what the brothers used to do with ink on paper,” said Ibargüen.If the quality of entries warrant it, the foundation may spend as much as $25 million during the next five years in the search for bold community news experiments.”

Now that’s quite an invitation to all of us who may have an interest in participating in the new age of news.

Citizen news photographers in action

In Citizen Journalism on April 20, 2006 at 12:29 pm

In a comment on my post about citizen journalism, Ed Dombrofski points to a blog post about a "minor revolution in British journalism." Scaffolding fell at a construction site and before journalists and camera crews could arrive on the scene, the BBC had been e-mailed about 600 photographs by witnesses at the site.

This is truly amazing: hundreds of people participated in news gathering of a relatively minor event. With the wide spread adoption of camera phones and the coming addition of Wifi to digital cameras, such news gathering will become standard. This will accelerate the demise of the century old practice of news organizations publishing or broadcasting on a set schedule, e.g. morning newspaper and 6pm news broadcast. As news organizations continue to make this transition, there will be more and more opportunities for anyone to participate, through pictures, videos, sound and/or text, in the news process.

Citizen journalism articles

In Citizen Journalism on April 17, 2006 at 11:37 am

Steve Outing, a leading authority on citizen journalism, has a web page that points to several articles he has written about citizen journalism. I point to it here because citizen journalism provides an easy and well supported area for participation by anyone who has stories to tell.

Outing wrote these pieces when he was with the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, future journalists, and teachers of journalists (according to its web page). He reports that he is now starting a new venture to support those who want to participate:

"I left to devote my full time to a citizen-media-based startup company, the Enthusiast Group, which applies the concept that people are perfectly capable of telling their own stories and sharing them with the world to adventure and participant sports. EG is building a network of Web sites, each covering a different sport; the debut site is about mountain biking."

We can follow his adventure via his blog.

Future of Newspapers: One View

In Blogging, Citizen Journalism, Listen to the Dawn, Newspapers on February 20, 2006 at 8:44 pm

Diane Rehm holds conversations with authors, politicians, industry experts, thought leaders, etc. on her daily radio show from WAMU in Boston. On her January 3, 2006 show, she talked to several people about the future of newspapers. The guests: Michael Massing, Journalist, press critic; John Morton, Newspaper industry consultant; Rem Rieder, Editor, American Journalism Review. It is worth listening to the streaming audio of the show.

At around the 29 minute mark in the show, a caller (who identified himself as the former managing director of the LA Times syndicate in Europe) states that citizen journalists and bloggers are destroying the future of news “papers” and that business models of traditional news gathering organizations will be challenged by a huge number of bloggers using citizen journalists all over the world. He said that the news paper model and the accompanying news gathering model will go away.

The sad thing was the response of John Morton (as I transcribed from the broadcast).

“I envision this bloggers world as sort of analogous to what civilization was like in the Middle Ages when everybody had opinions; we were full of all sorts of witch hunts and mysteries; it was before the Enlightenment. And really, civilization has advanced because of information. I don’t care how many opinions you spread around the world, it’s only going to be news coverage that provides information that makes a difference.”

Morton, who was introduced as a newspaper industry analyst, is clearly out of tune with the new media world. It appears from his response that he is totally unaware of the roles played by citizen journalists and has a view of bloggers that is commonly expressed in newspaper articles. A lot of the traditional media writers have put blogs into two camps: vanity blogs in which people write about their daily lives and opinion blogs in which people express opinions about articles they read in the traditional media.

These two types are, indeed, very common in the blogosphere. But just consider the number of bloggers at work. Dave Sifry reports that “Technorati currently tracks 27.2 million weblogs, and the blogosphere we track continues to double about every 5.5 months.” These 27 million bloggers include people who are generating the news, as well as people writing about that news.

If Morton is representative of that traditional world, the conquest described by the caller to the show will occur with very little opposition. If you do not understand what is happening to your business model, you cannot respond adequately.