Crowd Journalism

What is Crowd Journalism?

The world of communication is developing at breakneck speed and new ways of accessing information quickly are being explored. A promising starting point is the concept of crowd journalism. Many crowdworkers are asked to contribute small text passages that are later combined into a larger project. The target is to process large tasks that demand a lot of time, quickly and flexibly, with the help of a large number of crowdworkers. Articles are not written by one sole author, but by numerous flexible workers.

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Opportunities for Professional Journalists

Nowadays, journalists generally work numerous casual jobs and internships rather than in the classical print media. Crowd journalism gives them the opportunity to create and distribute short text passages. They are therefore provided with a platform where they can market their professional skills. This also benefits those who may not have the time to dedicate to journalism full-time. In addition, it can also appeal to students who want to break into the field of journalism.

Getting the Public Involved

Another form of crowd journalism can be seen when the public is taking part in the reporting. Confusingly, it may seem that when a story breaks it’s the journalist that has done all the work. However, local and international journalists alike won’t have all the information they need handed to them easily. A good journalist is like a detective and they need to make sure they have their facts right. After all, fake news is something that angers readers and must be avoided at all costs.

How the Public Contributes

There are terms for this kind of journalism such as citizen journalism, collaborative media, and even street journalism. However, this doesn’t mean a group of people on the street suddenly start to write articles. Citizen journalism for example is where user-generated content can form articles to be shared with others. This has become very popular with the advent of the internet. Social media is often used to share information. Local areas often form groups and communities online to share information. This could be advertising, promoting local events, traffic updates and more. However, mixed in the posts will be what seems like gossip. Yet this gossip may be invaluable to some residents. Telling others to watch out because a local burglar is on the loose is important to those in the area.

On a larger scale self-reporting online or via social media can assist in disasters or major events. Often a random person will find out something shocking before a news station will. This puts the public at the fore of breaking news. After this, whoever posted early on will usually find their inbox flooding with requests from journalists asking for info or to use their posts. Interestingly, wars, protests, and earthquakes are all often reported on by members of the public in real-time.

Types of Citizen Journalism

This kind of journalism is also known as participation journalism. It has different types that can result in very different presentations:

  • Participation by audience
  • Examples of this would be when people comment on existing pieces of journalism. This can include news stories, blogs, photos or videos from someone’s phone, or information shared by community groups as mentioned previously.
  • Independent news websites
  • Sites such as Which? in the UK and Consumer Reports in the US are good examples of this. The site remains as neutral as possible when reporting. They also usually have a strong theme of helping and educating their audience. This can be done in a variety of ways but usually comes in the form of product testing, reviews, research of services and more. These kinds of sites can and do sometimes upset companies when their products aren’t reviewed favorably. Consumer Reports has even been sued several times but won every case brought against them.
  • Participation news sites
  • This is more along the lines of crowd journalism. The audience can play an active role in researching, collecting and publishing content. This can be via blogs, wikis, RSS, tagging, sharing visual media, podcasts and more.
  • Collaborative media sites
  • Examples of this would be Buzzfeed and Slashdot. The former focuses mainly on lighthearted content including celebrities, media, quizzes and promotions. The latter is rooted firmly in the tech and science industry. Whilst quite different the way they function is very similar. Whilst they both have an in-house team who write and publish articles they also allow submissions. These submissions are vetted by editors who decide whether or not to allow the content to be published. Slashdot also has peer moderation where users can make comments disappear if they’re downvoted enough.
  • Personal broadcasting platforms
  • On these platforms, any individual can broadcast their views, ideas, news, and content. The range here is vast, all you have to do is look at how many people are on YouTube to see how popular this format is. However, most of it is entertainment rather than journalism. More specific platforms are out there for those who prefer a more news-based approach.
  • Open source news apps
  • As we turn more and more to mobile technology and want our news on the go then, of course, apps have to get a mention. The View app is one such app where anyone can be a source of news. These kinds of platforms allow users to share news with one another to keep up to date. Open source news content means that anyone can contribute. This may be via collecting, analyzing, disseminating or reporting information and news.

    History of Citizen Journalism

    For a long time, the actual definition of this kind of journalism has been up for debate. Some will say that crowd journalism is the same as user-generated content (UGC). Many say the issue with seeing it as UGC is that it strips the original term of its virtues and makes it sound trivial. In the late 80s in the US during a presidential election, many people took to sharing news their own way instead of relying on traditional newspaper articles. This brought about debate as to how journalists could actually do their jobs. Many saw news reporting as for the people so to not include them was a poor idea.

    Involving the Public

    Professional reporters then began to include the public in their journalism much more. Instead of merely reporting on an issue and moving on they would speak to those it affected. Personal and public opinion would then be attributed to the articles written. However, many older reporters didn’t like this format wanting to keep the professional strictly between them and by the early 2000s it seemed that they may have started to get their way.

    A few years later when social media started to become much more popular a surge in crowd journalism was seen. This was especially prevalent with local journalism, seeing online news sites asking their readers to contribute. Community newspapers would flourish and were often preferred to larger publishers who would simply feed news to their readers and watchers. This has grown ever since.

    Notable Crowd Journalists

    Professor of journalism Jay Rosen said that citizen journalists are “the people formally known as the audience” making them “…realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable”. Some will say that one of the oldest journalists was Abraham Zapruder who captured the assassination of JFK. Many reports from the 9/11 attacks were compiled from crowd journalism as eyewitnesses and victims shared what they saw. Wael Abbas from Egypt was given several awards after he published a video of police officers attacking a bus driver. This even led to their conviction. In a similar vein, Darnella Frazier won a Pulitzer Prize after she recorded the murder of George Floyd.

    Potential Issues

    Whilst things like blogs are extremely useful for companies it helps to have a company like clickworker to vet who is writing. This means the writers keep on topic, use correct grammar, and don’t let their personal opinions sway their writing. Traditional journalists are sometimes wary of citizen journalists. This is because they believe they lack training and the ability to remain independent. Some feel that objectivity is lacking when an untrained crowd is involved. Journalistic objectivity often refers to fairness, factuality, and nonpartisanism (no bias towards any political party). Here at clickworker we ensure our carefully selected crowd is sufficiently able to write for the needs of our clients.