Posts Tagged ‘citizen journalism’

Silencing media doesn’t work anymore in a citizen journalism world

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 21:53 - by

Recently Lebron James was dunked on by Xavier University Jordan Crawford at James’ Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, and Nike tried to stop video from getting out.

The problem for James and Nike is that they forgot that we live in a world of Flip Cameras, cell phone cameras and plenty of ways to capture and disseminate video without professionals. Sure, Nike was able to stop professional videographers from sharing video by confiscating their video, but silencing professional media outlets isn’t a good way to stop information from being disseminated.

In many ways, the rise of citizen media is allowing for a greater defense of the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Now would be censors have to realize that it’s not easy — if not near impossible — to stop every single citizen from documenting what they witness. We’ve seen this in China, Iran and other parts of the world.

Stories will be told with or without traditional media outlets. In fact, citizen journalists are willing to show far great portrales of the world (citizen journalists don’t know or care about the Rice Krispies test). Instead of often sensitized Western media reports, citizen journalism is willing to show us the horrors of oppression and civil unrest.

Instead of actually stopping information from flowing, governments and, in this case, large corporations merely paint themselves as overbearing censors and bad guys. Sure, Iran, China and Nike were able to stop professional reports but they were miserable at stopping citizen journalists.

What did Nike end of accomplishing? They created a monster out of a rather pedestrian dunk in a pick-up game (check out the dunk yourself). They sullied their own good name and the name of Lebron James. And, of course, the video of the dunk got out anyway.

Twitter users seem to agree that the hype around the dunk was way bigger than the dunk itself:

realhiphopfan88 lebron should never have hid that video the uproar was worse than the actual dunk he made it more of a big deal than it really was smh

LouisburgCoach The craze is over & the video is out: Lebron James gets dunked on. Hyped WAY too much but…

Watts4 Ok yea LeBron got dunked on but It wasn’t as bad as they made it seem! It was kinda weak to me….

a_jucks @OGOchoCinco did you see the “dunk” over lebron?? why did they make a big deal about that? it wasnt that bad..

Guruofsports just saw the Lebron gettin yammed on it wasnt that bad.. damn somebody dnt kno how to take a L

DjFonzie I can’t believe all the hype over the lebron dunk.

Now both China and Iran are totalitarian regimes that afford their citizens few rights by Western standards. They are often censoring media — particularly foreign media — because they don’t want their often grotesque acts of oppression being noticed. And a large part of running a totalitarian regime is controlling the flow of information.

In Nike’s case, they turned something that was barely news or not news at all into a major story in the sports world. They also hurt the reputation of one of their biggest stars.

And for what? I don’t know. What I do know, is that Nike shows us that there are plenty of big corporations out there who don’t get how social media and citizen journalism work.

I think traditional journalists should take this to heart. Would be censors may begin to realize that censorship is futile in the age of citizen journalism. That realization may never come, but I do know that censorship just got a whole lot more difficult.

Podcast: Being on social media is a question of relevancy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 18:04 - by

Robert Quigley was recently named social media editor at the Austin American-Statesman.

Yes, you read that correctly: a newspaper has a social media editor. And why not? Newspapers have all kinds of editors, but few have a dedicated editorial staffer who focuses solely on social media.

“To me, social media is one of those things where it is no longer a question whether you should, but how you should do it,” Quigley said.

For Quigley, being on social media isn’t something that’s nice to do but optional. He said harnessing social media (and the Web, mobile and any  new tools that pop up)  is a question of relevancy.

“If we’re going to stay relevant, we need to be everywhere,” he said.

If millions of people are on social media, Quigley said journalists need to be there too. Social media is only going to become more popular and its relevancy will only increase. Ignoring social media may be tantamount to ignoring reality.

In his previous role as Internet Editor, Quigley spent half of his time on social media and the other half on working with the newsroom to make sure the Statesman’s staffers were coordinated and getting content and breaking news online.

“I’ve found a lot of success with social media in the past year,” Quigley said. “The management here recognized that and wanted to advance even further with social media.”

And social media really is a full time job. Papers like the Statesman have scores of reporters and editors using social media and engaging users online. Quigley is now the point man for social media and how journalists should be using it at the Statesman. Perhaps more importantly, Quigley is the point man for experimenting with new technologies.

“I can spend more time focusing on social media, interacting with the community, finding the best ways to engage our readers and our viewers and to make sure we are staying ahead on technology,” he said.

The Statesman was not one of the first news organizations on Twitter, but it was one of the first news organizations on Twitter that really tried to harness the medium well. From the beginning, Quigley knew he didn’t want the @Statesman Twitter account to just be an RSS feed.

“I noticed that all of my friends on Twitter were sharing links to news,” Quigley said. “And I thought ‘why can’t we guide this conversation?’ I wanted the interaction.”

Quigley uses the @Statesman account to interact with people, hand select interesting stories to share and “basically treat social media with the social part emphasized.” Even though many of his bosses weren’t on Twitter and many didn’t even know what Twitter was, they were supportive of his idea.

“It was pretty successful from the start,” he said.

One of the things Quigley is hoping to spend more time on now is seeing what is coming next.

“I want to find where the new curve is and get in front of it as fast as possible,” he said. “I want to be able to spend my time reading up on everything I can, seeing what non-newspaper industries are doing and what works for them.

Some other topics discussed:
  • Why did the Statesman originally get into social media?
  • How did Quigley first get into Twitter? Why did he become addicted to it?
  • What are the biggest positives of social media?
  • Are the lines between marketing and editorial blurring?
  • How does a journalism student or journalist get a job as a social media editor?

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Creating value when everyone is a journalist

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 16:44 - by

Many journalists — whether they choose to admit it or not — are scared of trying to make a living in a world where anyone can report.

It’s true that the Web, smartphones, social media, blogs, etc are making it easy for everyone to report and share their stories, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a need for professional journalists. In fact, I’d argue that citizen journalism, while helping to cover the world better, only highlights the need for professional journalists.

Over the past few days, I’ve extolled the virtues of social media in covering the unrest in Iran. True, without social media, this story might not be told properly, but there still has been a large need for professional reporters. Let’s take a look at some content from pros that has really helped provide clarity to what is going on in Iran: — The new media startup/blog that covered last year’s presidential election so well has a great piece on the suspect numbers coming out of Iran. FiveThirtyEight made its name by analyzing polling data, and in a post today it compares the 2005 Iranian presidential election to the one last week.

This is the kind of thoughtful, time consuming analysis that can’t be provided in 140 characters. It’s also the kind of analysis that can help make a journalism organization stand out.

Some irregularities that popped out:

Around 1600 GMT Sunday, the ministry of Interior released the official vote totals by province. As others have mentioned, by law candidates have three days following voting to contest the result, before the final totals are approved by the Supreme Leader. As such, it is notable that both the aggregate totals and provincial totals were certified, approved and released before the three day deadline.

We would have expected Ahmadinejad’s result from Friday, informed by the polling, historical trends and a bit of bet-hedging, to be between 40% and 55%. These figures would suggest that Ahmadinejad’s reported 65% of the national vote is at minimum outside of the trend, and more likely, an exaggerated figure.

Medhi Karroubi, over whom Ahmadinejad advanced to the 2005 runoff round by just 700,000 votes, was surrounded by controversy in that election as well, arguing that Ahamdinejad’s totals had been inflated by conservative hardliners. His openly accusatory allegations to the Supreme Leader resulted in his resignation from several top political posts.

This post is a must read for anyone who wants to understand why the election results are so suspect.

The Lede | The New York Times — The Lede has been leading the NYT’s coverage of Iran by curating the best content from around the world about the Iranian elections. The Lede is linking to other news organizations, bloggers, press reports, videos and, of course, New York Times content.

The Times provides an excellent example of how new and old forms of journalism can merge together to cover a story better. The Times still has its excellent traditional news stories that help put everything into context. These are the kinds of stories that are needed to help people make sense of all the upheaval in Iran.

But the Times also has The Lede, which is focusing on curating right now to provide the total picture of Iran. Professional journalists make excellent curators. Many are quite knowledgeable on certain subjects and make ideal people to curate content from around the Web.

The Iran election aftermath cannot be told fully by one news organization. That’s why a a mixed strategy of original reporting and curation of the best of the rest makes sense. The Lede is the ideal place to start on when looking for coverage of Iran.

BBC News — has an excellent who’s who in Iran post up that makes an excellent primer for anyone wanting to know the major players in Iran. This is the kind of simple, yet information piece that you won’t see originating on social media. It provides excellent context for what’s going on and invites readers — especially non-Iranians — to learn about the key players.

Analysis content is where professional journalists can really stand out. On this front, the BBC has several great pieces on They have a Q&A with their correspondent in Tehran and an analysis piece comparing previous mass Iranian protests to the new ones.

Citizen journalism is here to stay, and it’s going to help provide fuller coverage of the world. But there is still an important place for professional journalists, especially when it comes to putting everything into context.

The promise, risks and reasons for liveblogging

Monday, May 11, 2009 15:12 - by

Liveblogging offers a lot of promise for a future model of journalism that features professionals, sources and citizens working together to provide a more complete picture of the world around us.

In a previous post, I discussed liveblogging and its current forms. There are three main categories: first, there’s the liveblog that covers events we can all see, televised events like a World Series game. Second, there’s a liveblog that covers events we can’t see, like a court case. Finally, there’s the “this just in” brand of liveblog for a breaking news event or a crisis, where up-to-the-minute coverage is needed.

First, let’s discuss televised events. In some cases, liveblogs here make little sense. Few people watching the State of the Union would need a separate commentary during it.  The State of the Union is an uninterrupted event, like a film.

You don’t need a reporter during a speech, just like you don’t need someone whispering in your ear during a movie. A liveblog of the State of the Union might serve for someone who couldn’t watch but wanted to keep up with it as it happened. It could also serve as a transcript for later readers. Most people, however, would probably prefer a brief synopsis.

Liveblogs hold more potential for televised events where there’s a break or a lull in the action. Baseball and football are good examples where there’s plenty of time that’s ripe for good observations about the game. If the liveblog is set up as a chat, the fans can set the agenda of the conversation, rather than just listen to the announcers; it creates a community space, like having a bunch of buddies watching the game with you.

Liveblogging’s greatest potential is for events where we can’t see all the action or wouldn’t easily comprehend it even if we could. These include court proceedings, political events, terrorist attacks, wars, natural disasters or, on the bright side, space landings and major scientific breakthroughs. Livebloggers become our eyes and ears on the ground, valued for their ability to get details and separate facts from rumors.

We’ve had live coverage for decades, in radio and television. So to imagine what liveblogs could end up doing for reporting, let’s look back at the evolution of live coverage.

One of the major events in live television coverage was the Kennedy assassination in 1963. Live reports came within minutes of the shooting. Reporters came to us by the hour with new information, but it was largely a one-way conversation, reporter to viewer. For public reactions, reporters went to the streets. Take a look at this NBC News “man-on-the-street” session after the assassination (Note: you may need to reload the clip).

With liveblogging, this type of reporting stands to change a great deal. First of all, getting people to talk about such a grave subject will no longer demand the television reporter’s awkward question, “How do you feel?” The reactions will come naturally, remotely from the audience.

Whether through liveblogs or other forums, people will send reactions in text, audio and video form. A middleman on the street will no longer be needed for such events; the audience will send their feelings and coverage themselves.

Abraham Zapruder was interviewed immediately after the assassination, but it took 12 years after JFK’s death for his film to come to light. A modern-day Zapruder could have done it with an iPhone and had it on an iReport or NowPublic within minutes. As sites allow multimedia reader commentary, such footage will become easy to add to a liveblog.

Next, let’s take a look at coverage of 9/11. Here’s CNN on that morning. Whereas in ’63, you had a one-camera shot of a reporter, here our attention is constantly divided. We hear the reporters, while we see a video image. The screen divides at times into a video image on one side and live reporters on the other, while audio of the reporters is mixed in.

Take this to the next step: television coverage may begin to rely on the Internet. Soon news coverage will feature not just windows for video images and reporters but also for tweets and liveblogs.  Already Twitter feeds get a space on many CNN broadcasts, and liveblogs will be just one more window on our screens, where users throw in their accounts, their photos, videos, audio, etc.

News organizations will need to find a way to filter it all, perhaps with a minute delay on entries to delete anything obscene and flag possibly inaccurate information or by hand-selecting which user-generated content appears.  In the end, however, interactions between readers and news agencies on liveblogs will serve both groups well.

For example, in the 9/11 scenario, notice the CNN reporters telling us they’re calling their sources and trying to get information. On-air, they struggle in their discussion with Sean Murtaugh because he can’t see certain things from his “vantage point.” In a liveblog scenario, tons of eyewitnesses could contribute their vantage point and speed up the process of information-gathering, helping both users and reporters.

Meanwhile, when reporters contact their trusted sources, if they do so transparently via liveblogs, we as users can follow along and interact directly. Liveblogs then become a kind of online news conference where users directly address sources and reporters. After all, if Murtaugh is willing to speak on national TV, why shouldn’t he be wiling to take our questions?

At the present time, Twitter’s “direct message” feature allows us to single out a person for communication, and this is an early model of the structure for conversations in liveblogs. Imagine first a window where the reporter welcomes all his sources and readers, then sub-windows where sources either offer their own chat or readers can request a chat with them.

As news travels faster and faster, there’s an increased risk of misinformation. One of the issues that Oliver Stone’s 9/11 film “World Trade Center” captured was how quickly rumors spread on that day. With everyone on their phones and PDAs, plenty of false information spread about who was responsible and what had happened. Our urge to get information out before verifying it will only grow with the advance of technology, and it will be crucial for the reporter to become a voice of authority, while staying connected to their audience.

Despite that risk, liveblogging will allow for a much greater sense of empowerment and community among citizens in the pivotal events of the future. When we watched the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 attacks, many of us were glued to our TV sets but felt powerless. With the integration of liveblogging technology, we will be able to air our questions and concerns in a joined forum of citizens, reporters and, hopefully, reliable sources.

Beyond crises like JFK’s death and 9/11, liveblogging has great potential in areas so far untapped. Think about liveblogging in war. So far, we’ve had plenty of live reports in war, but usually reporters answer to an anchor, not directly to the public.

If democracy keeps up with technology, liveblogs could easily arise where reporters, news consumers, parties involved in the conflict and people affected by the conflict are all converging to interact. There can be liveblogs of assaults on American forces or of other big events. War blogs will be one area where a multimedia environment will make a huge difference, as commenters can post video audio and photo with their posts.

The only thing that can prevent liveblogging from revolutionizing live coverage is corporate and political bureaucracy getting in the way. The potential is there for transparent open conversations, where those of radically opposing opinions can speak and link us to the evidence for their opinions. There will be a need to verify identities, distinguish fact and rumor and define what is too objectionable to air, but I believe this can be done while still advancing this a revolutionary and open form of reporting.

Imagine a liveblog transmitted from space years from now as we land on Mars. Astronauts, reporters and viewers will be exchanging information and questions.

Sound crazy? Maybe.

But the future is full of potential.

GroundReport is hyperlocal gone global — but will it work?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:25 - by

picture-3Rachel Sterne interned at the State Department shortly after graduating from NYU in 2005, watched Kofi Annan plead with the Security Council to stop the madness in Darfur, and saw nothing happening. The classic next move in a situation like that would’ve probably involved buying a supportive “Save Darfur” t-shirt and turning genocide into her go-to talking point for dinner parties.

But Sterne wasn’t having that. Instead, she set up, an open source global news site that shares revenue with its far-flung network of 4,000 citizen reporters. Called “the Wikipedia of news,” its goal is to democratize the media by making original, intelligent reporting possible for amateurs and professionals alike. More importantly though, the site produces international news at a fraction of the cost of the mainstream media by relying on locals for hyperlocal coverage.

While the financial benefits of this system are clear, Sterne maintains that the coverage you get from people who are living the stories they’re reporting is just as important.

“Everyone who’s reporting is experiencing these things first hand,” said Sterne, bent over her laptop at the WeMedia Game Changers conference. She showed some streaming video from the conference through GroundReport and elaborated on her belief that first-hand coverage from the people most affected is the way to go.

“You get the sort of perspective that a reporter from the states can’t really get,” she said.

And Sterne counts on this close up view to create public pressure around events like the genocide in Darfur. This is not to say that GroundReport is a hub for tales of martyrdom and whining about how hard life is in places where machetes are tools of government. By sticking to an objective, 450ish-word format that Sterne compares to that of The Associated Press, the site’s reporters strive to make their very personal coverage professional, as well.

“Whenever I look at global news Web sites, they tend to suck,” said Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS and author of “Super Media: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World.”

Plagued by problems of lack of feedback and disorganization, international reporting sites can easily turn into disjointed messes requiring the sort of navigation that few readers are looking to participate in.

“I don’t want to go to GroundReport and spend half an hour digging around for something that’s interesting,” Beckett said. “I don’t have time for that.”

Fortunately for Beckett, he doesn’t have to. The front page of GroundReport is populated with the highest rated posts, as are all the site’s topic-specific pages.

“We have an active Wikipedia-style editorial team that can revise any content on the site and a rating system that determines what goes on the front page and in our RSS feed,” said Sterne when asked about the organization of the site.

While this does result in a scattered front page — stories like “5-Wheeled Car Slides Sideways for Parking” situated right below “Sri Lanka Announces Truce to Save Civilian Lives”— it also provides a departure from the chronology-based blog style that leaves readers like Beckett itching to get out.

Like most start up ventures though, GroundReport’s growth is hindered by a lack of capital. The site launched in 2007 with seed money from Sterne’s own savings and family contributions. Since then, cash prizes like those GroundReport won at the German “Open Source Meets Business” conference, content partnerships and advertising have helped defray the costs.

At this point, the site is paying for itself, something few global start ups can claim. The money being generated is enough to continue and subsist, but not enough grow to the extent that Sterne would like.

“The logo is probably the only thing I’m happy about right now,” she said of the amateurish appearance of the site. But until GroundReport sees an infusion of capital, the visual mock up of a more professional looking site will remain nothing more than a mock up.

But half the beauty of Internet-based projects lies in the unprecedented low overhead, which allows GroundReport to continue operating and testing its methods even without any major investments. And the aspect of the site most often questioned — its complete reliance on untrained citizen journalists and volunteer editors — is also its saving grace as far as money is concerned. The site shares ad revenue based on the quality and popularity of contributors’ articles, which spurs better contributions but also puts a natural cap on the amount that the site will have to pay for each specific act of journalism.

On GroundReport, writers succeed only when the website as a whole does. And while sums like $52.59 for 33 postings look paltry to Americans, they don’t seem so puny to contributors like Kenyan Fred Obera. “I’m not in it for the money, but it does make life better for a poor journalist like me,” he said.

Sterne added, “It’s enough to make participating worthwhile for some of our contributors in developing countries.”

It’s also a major factor in differentiating GroundReport from other citizen journalism and global reporting sites. The former rarely pay their contributors and the latter have higher overhead costs because they’re employing professional correspondents.

Chief among such sites is Boston-based, which employs professional journalists living around the world at a base rate of $1000 for four posts a month. Charles Sennott, Global Post’s Executive Editor and VP, is a fan of GroundReport but notes that, “our journalists, from what I could gauge, are considerably of a different realm.”

Offering contributors some amount of money for the posts does provide some incentive for good reporting, but it also keeps the site from reaching a level of quality necessary to compete with Global Post and the big boys of Internet-based foreign reporting. GroundReport can’t switch to the Global Post model, which generally means employing journalists living in foreign countries, without undermining its entire strategy of relying on hyperlocal coverage from the locals.

But I wonder if this very strategy will keep them from ever developing the audience they’ll need to expand.

Photo: Screen shot from

NY Times’s ‘The Local’ rough but promising

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 19:10 - by

fort-greene_main1Andy Newman is the editor of the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill version of “The Local,” a newly minted hyper-local blogging experiment by The New York Times.

“I’m about as newbie as you get,” he admitted when asked about previous blogging experience. He’s so new, in fact, that he spent the better part of this morning in Twitter and Facebook training, learning how to use social networks for online journalism.

You see, that’s the thing about The Local, it’s unapologetically experimental. Its two pilot blogs — Newman’s in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area and a second for Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange New Jersey— were born of “financial desperation,” Newman said.

They are part of The Times’ “endless search for any way to get into some enterprise that could conceivably make money.” And while this doesn’t exactly encourage trust that they know what they’re doing, it is a promising sign about the direction of the Times as a whole. After decades of God-like distance from the subjects of their reporting, the company has finally decided to gets its hands dirty in this new and very much unknown venture.

Where traditional Times credo puts professional journalists at an arm’s distance, The Local throws professionals (Newman) and amateurs (college interns and community bloggers) right into the neighborhood, albeit a bit haphazardly at this point. Internet newbie though he may be, Newman embodies this new, hands on approach. The very concept of “covering” a community is “old school,” he said. That type of distance between the subject and object won’t exist on The Local.

“Before we even launched, I spent most of the last couple months calling people in the area, having meetings, walking around and talking to people, getting them to want to contribute,” Newman said.

Plus, there’s the in the URL, “which means something to some people.” As far as current inflow of content is concerned though, he acknowledges that they “don’t quite have the hang of it yet.” Content is flowing in, but the quality and consistency varies.

This week brought with it a successful community-driven back and forth between the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, readers and the Parks Commission. The Park Conservancy’s Web master submitted a post about banning grass-ruining soccer players from the park, readers commented copiously and a follow up from the Parks Department this morning essentially said we don’t care about the soccer players, let them be.

This is the sort of hyper-local posting that’s more specific even than major Brooklyn blogs like Brownstoner and Gowanus Lounge, whose readerships Newman thinks can easily be shared with The Local.

“There’s enough of an audience that’s hungry for this stuff that they’ll read both,’ he said.

As for competing with the Clinton Hill Blog and The Real Fort Greene, The Local is counting on its consistent posting and full-time commitment as opposed to spare-time commitment to differentiate itself.

All in all, the pursuit is admirable, the timing only a little bit late and the enthusiasm level promising. Now if only they could figure out that damn Twitter device… mini experts in a major network

Sunday, March 8, 2009 14:11 - by

206566-600-0-11Ask Amra Tareen why she founded, a massive exercise in global citizen journalism, and she will tell you it’s because she’s not a terrorist.

This is not the non sequitur it seems. Her answer derives from annoyance over a misperception she still feels.

“The mainstream media is so biased,” she explained. “After 9/11, they made it sound like all Muslims are terrorists. I’m a Muslim, My kids are Muslims; we’re not terrorists. Everyone has a bias. Editors have a bias. I have a bias. So I thought the only way to fix this is to get all the voices out there.” — Tareen’s answer to closed, controlled traditional media — launched in July 2008 with the goal of including as many people as possible. If Tareen had her way, the AllVoices community would be all six billion people on earth. But within a site that aims to be global and all-inclusive in its scope and membership, a curious thing is happening. Even with free rein in topic choice, Tareen tells us that many of AllVoices’ contributors are choosing very specific beats and becoming mini experts within the larger framework of the massive site.

“Individual people are very consistent usually and the topics they like to report about are very consistent,” she said. “We’re creating a ton of little experts.”

Although AllVoices’ policy of allowing aliases rather than full names raises questions of accountability, Tareen explained that contributors “develop an identity on the site.” They have a user name and a profile page and anything they do gets aggregated onto their profile page.

“Plus, their profile on AllVoices dictates how much money they make for their contributions,” she explained.

Tying the quality of their contributions — from posts to pictures and even comments — to users’ purse strings is part of the motivation for the beatblogging that happens on AllVoices. According to Tareen, the beatbloggers generally do better than their less focused counterparts.

Pakistani user MarcusCato has been blogging with AllVoices since August 30, 2008. In that time, he’s narrowed his focus to politics and the economy, particularly in the Middle East and his content has been viewed by 350,125 users. Not too shabby for six and half months.

Halfway across the world, BorderExplorer, a 59-year-old Texas woman, is the unlikely guardian of all things US/Mexico border related.

“Although I was born in the middle [Midwest, middle-class] and am now middle-aged, I’ve moved to the U.S/Mexico border,” she wrote in her profile.

She’s only been blogging about border issues for three months and already has about 34,000 page views.

Specializing like this rather than posting anything and everything that pops into your head means more developed knowledge on a topic and a bigger, more loyal fan base to bring in the hits. Tareen admits that this degree of specialization was not expected from the outset, but considers it a uesful development both for the beatbloggers and the site as a whole.

“The more focused ads you can drive to your pages, to the site, that means you can earn a higher CPM — cost per thousand views. Because if you’re more specific, you get a higher value for advertising,” she said.

A loyal following and a little extra cash? We’ll take it.

Below, Amra explain how and why is developing beatbloggers:

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Photo from

Jeff Goodell says citizen journalists can save the environment

Monday, October 20, 2008 19:40 - by

(Video courtesy of Leonard Witt of PJNet)

That’s because Jeff Goodell doesn’t think professional journalists can.

Witt interviewed Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone Magazine, on Oct. 19 at The Society of Environmental Journalists convention. Witt challenges Goodell on whether citizen journalists could provide the same kind of ethical truth that professional journalists can.

“I don’t think evidence based truth is the exclusive province of professional journalists,” Goodell said.

Goodell isn’t the first person to see value in the power of everyone. Many beat reporters recognize that our readers know more than we do. Combining professional journalism with citizen journalism may be the best way to cover today’s issues.

A main reason for that is because professional journalism has seen massive budget cuts. Another issue he cites are deadlines, which aren’t always conducive to quality investigative reporting.

“I think the big failure of journalism is in communicating what is at stake in this — communicating the scale and scope of the story,” Goodell said about the failings of environmental journalism.

I urge you to check out the video and consider what Goodell is saying. Can citizen journalism make up for the gaps in professional journalism? Does journalism need citizen contributors to stay vigilant in this era of budget cuts?

Goodell is right that millions of people have access to cellular phones, laptops and the Internet. It certainly makes investigating and reporting much easier than ever before.

Lesson’s from Regina Lynn, Creating a Social Network for your Beat

Sunday, November 11, 2007 15:56 - by

When NewAssignment.Net was getting ready to launch Assignment Zero, our first experiment in networked journalism, we meet with the editors and reporters at to discuss the upcoming project. While there we met Regina Lynn, author of the sex-tech blog at Wired.  Describing what we wanted to do with Assignment Zero, Regina thought it sounded familar "building a smart mob to inform her reporting.

The following is one of the first posts at NewAssginment.Net. At we want to repeat, expand and refine what Lynn has been doing.

To find out just what we mean, continue reading her interview with’s Amanda Michel.

Interview With Regina Lynn: Mastering Citizen Journalism With a Smart Mob

Question: When you found out about, you told Jay Rosen that you have been a pioneer in
community journalism unknowingly for the last few years. What did you
mean by that?

Regina Lynn: I couldn’t do my job thinking I know
everything. I write about sex-tech; anything that involves technology
and romantic or sexual relationships is in my beat. That ranges from
health/biomed to gadgets to social networking and online dating … it’s
a vast subject, and I could not possibly stay on top of it all if it
were just me. I have to tap into what other people are doing and find
out directly what things are harming and helping them.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a social network of people
online who also enjoy discussing the intersection of sex and
technology. The community lives at the Sex Drive Forum, which I started in may 2004. 

Question: How did the Sex Drive Forum start?


About BeatBlogging.Org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.