Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Maka-Maka is Google's Answer to Face Book After Failure to Acquire It

Google may have lost the bidding war to invest in Facebook, but it is preparing its own major assault on the social networking scene. It goes by the codename “Maka-Maka” inside the Googleplex (or, perhaps, “Makamaka”).

Maka-Maka encompasses Google’s grand plan to build a social layer across all of its applications. Some details about Maka-Maka have already leaked out, particularly how Google plans to use the feed engine that powers Google Reader (known internally as Reactor) to create “activity streams” for other applications akin to Facebook’s news and mini feeds. But Maka-Maka goes well beyond that.

Maka-Maka will be unveiled in stages. The first peek will come in early November. As we reported previously, Google is planning to “out open” Facebook with a new set of APIs that developers can use to build apps for its social network Orkut, iGoogle, and eventually other applications as well. To recap what we wrote earlier:

Google will announce a new set of APIs on November 5 that will allow developers to leverage Google’s social graph data. They’ll start with Orkut and iGoogle (Google’s personalized home page), and expand from there to include Gmail, Google Talk and other Google services over time.

On November 5 we’ll likely see third party iGoogle gadgets that leverage Orkut’s social graph information - the most basic implementation of what Google is planning. . . . Google is also considering allowing third parties to join the party at the other end of the platform - meaning other social networks (think Bebo, Friendster, Twitter, Digg and thousands of others) to give access to their user data to developers through those same APIs.

We’ve now learned that the original November 5 date Google is shooting for may be delayed. “They need more time,” says one outside developer working on the project. “It is a challenge for them,” confirms another. Still, the expectation right now is that some announcement will be made the week of November 5 (perhaps the 8th or the 9th), and will most likely be limited to Google’s existing social network, Orkut. The APIs will be announced, along with as many as 50 partners that have created applications on top of the APIs. (Most of the top app developers for Facebook will be included—think RockYou, Slide, iLike, SocialMedia, etc.—and a few new ones as well).

All eyes will be on Google, but don’t expect anything too earth-shattering straight out of the gate. Many of these apps will be copycats of what is already available on Facebook (just as the very first apps on Facebook were ported over from other parts of the Web). This first go-round, Google will just be trying to match Facebook’s ante. Remember, even on Facebook, the best apps didn’t emerge on Day One. And now Facebook has a six-month lead.

The bigger challenge for Google in the U.S. is Orkut itself. While there may be 24.6 million monthly visitors to Orkut worldwide, only 500,000 of those are here in the U.S., according to comScore. Cool social apps aren’t much good if none of your friends use them.

That’s where the bigger plan for Maka-Maka comes into play. Maka-Maka is very strategic for Google. Responsibility for it goes all the way up to Jeff Huber, the VP of engineering in charge of all of Google’s apps. Huber is on record as saying that the way Google plans to compete is by using the Web as the platform instead of trying to lock developers into Google’s own platform. One way it will do that from the start is by creating two-way APIs so that any app created for Google can be taken to other Websites. (Whether this will extend to actual user profile data within Orkut or elsewhere inside Google remains to be seen because of privacy issues, but the apps themselves will be portable). And data from other social sites will be able to be imported into Google’s social apps as well.

The bigger vision is to combine all of Google’s apps and services through Maka-Maka. Google already has so much data on you, depending on how many Google apps you already use. It just needs to bring everything together. Your contacts are in Gmail. Your feeds are in Google Reader. Your IM buddy list is in Gtalk. Your upcoming events are in Google Calendar. Your widgets are in iGoogle. And don’t forget about your search history. Overtime, Google will connect all of these together in different ways, along with data about you from other social services across the Web, and give developers access to the social layer tying all of these apps together underneath. The real killer app for Google is not to turn Orkut into a Facebook clone. It is to turn every Google app into a social application without you even noticing that you’ve joined yet another social network

Murdoch, a Folk Hero in Silicon Eyes on Future of Media

At the Web 2.0 Summit a few weeks ago, MySpace held an after-party at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With a guest list of Silicon Valley luminaries and a party room redone in white — carpet, chairs, table and yes, mostly people — it was a very post-modern indication that MySpace, the social network owned by the News Corporation, was ready to engage with its brethren to the north by opening an office here.

Half an hour into the party, there was a ripple of excitement, and people started murmuring and pointing toward the door. When the crowd parted, I expected to see Mark Zuckerberg, the young overlord of Facebook, or Steve Ballmer, the battle-hardened Microsoft veteran. Then again, this is a MySpace party, so maybe Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan? Instead, it was Rupert Murdoch — old school, old media, and at 76, just plain old.

From the reaction of the crowd, it might as well have been Lindsay Lohan. He was overwhelmed by an immediate onrush of hospitality as the geekerati lined up to get a word with him.

Back East, the elites generally regard Mr. Murdoch, most especially with his purchase of The Wall Street Journal, as if a particularly unpleasant coup was under way. He is treated much the way he is in London (where he has owned The Times for more than 20 years), as an immigrant, a man of suspect values and provenance, even though he runs a $70 billion diversified media company.

In the United States, Mr. Murdoch’s appeal is thought to work in the heartland, where Fox News takes aim. But on the left coast, Mr. Murdoch is truly among friends. The attendees at the Web 2.0 conference know him as the ultimate market timer, the guy who swooped in out of nowhere and bought MySpace for $580 million two years ago, before its audience doubled and before social networks became the platform of the future. And this was before Facebook got a valuation of $15 billion via an investment from Microsoft on Wednesday.

“This is not just another rich guy — there are a lot of those around here,” said John Battelle, one of the summit’s hosts. “He built News Corp. from not much, with his own two hands, and this is a room full of entrepreneurs. The other thing this room respects is intelligence, and they can tell he is smart, really smart, not just from what he says, but what he has done with MySpace.”

The same characteristics that make Mr. Murdoch a nonmember of the club in the East — a lack of correctness and, occasionally, business civility — make him something of a folk hero in the context of the new economy, which is peopled by insurgents who see him as a fellow pirate, even though he already captains a giant ship.

In a joint interview on the stage of the summit with Chris DeWolfe, a MySpace founder, earlier that night, Mr. Murdoch brandished both humility and hubris. He said that the folks at News Corporation were “trainees” when it came to new media but added elsewhere that CNBC was “half dead,” that MySpace was probably worth 30 times what he had paid for it, and he all but licked his lips when he responded to a question about whether he would like to use The Wall Street Journal to “kill” The New York Times.

“That would be nice,” he said.

At a conference where most chief executives proceeded with euphemistic elegance — Mr. Ballmer stonewalled questions about negotiating for a piece of Facebook even as the deal was being consummated and gave a long answer to a question about Google without mentioning its name — Mr. Murdoch answered almost every question put to him, often naming names and frankly laying out his ambitions. He was a hit in the room and the belle of the ball afterward.

And in a move that plays like raw meat in this lion’s cage of developers, Mr. DeWolfe and Mr. Murdoch said MySpace would open the platform to applications or so-called widgets from outside programmers, a decision Facebook made in the spring.

“He is candid and he is aggressive,” said Jason Calacanis, who sold his start-up, Weblogs, to AOL for a reported $25 million two years ago. “He said during the discussion that he basically wanted to crush The New York Times and crush CNBC. When do you hear somebody in that kind of position being so candid?”

It’s not just Mr. Murdoch’s aggression the audience responds to. In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005, Mr. Murdoch suggested that newspapers were “immigrants” to the digital space who needed to learn from “natives.”

He seems to have gotten the hang of things pretty quickly, telling the Web 2.0 crowd, “No one delivers huge audiences anymore.” One of the conference’s themes was that advertisers, who will finance things as diverse as cellphones and desktop applications, are no longer after just eyeballs, but consumer behavior, too.

For a so-called old media company, News Corporation has done significant work to move from taking orders for mass inventory to offering focused buys with specific audience characteristics. Mr. Murdoch recently bragged at a conference about being able to deliver, say, all the optometrists in the London area — which is very Web 2.0, as they say.

I waited my turn in the queue at the party, and Mr. DeWolfe, who had just signed a deal for two more years with News Corporation, made an introduction. Amid the throbbing house music, Mr. Murdoch and I chatted briefly about his purchase of The Wall Street Journal, which will be completed in December.

Perhaps in an effort to keep cognitive dissonance at bay, the journalists I know at The Journal have changed posture from doomsaying to a growing curiosity about what it will be like to work for someone who actually wants to invest in newspapers. I mentioned as much to Mr. Murdoch. “That is the sense I am getting,” he said.

I also joked that he might have to cut a lot of checks to compete with my employer for national and international news, adding that this has been a tough business of late. But he insisted there was “plenty of room for growth” in the newspapers.

“We can’t wait to get started,” he said.

Others can’t wait either. “Who isn’t interested in seeing some other newspaper people who want to fight and do bold things?” Mr. Calacanis observed. “Murdoch is someone who is actually investing in newspapers. Even you have to be rooting for that.”


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Citizen Journalists of India is eforts to educate citizens on Citizen Media In India

Citizen journalists of india blog is not a simple blog but is is the online white board for citizens who want to be the citizen journalist. But does not know how to start and where to start. So please be the part of citizen journalists of India movement and get inform and spread information on citizen media in india.

An citizen Journalist of India

Citizen journalism vs. professional journalism

Citizen journalism, a concept at which mainstream news organizations used to turn up their nose, has been documented and praised enough that they are now paying attention. But do professional journalists and news organizations really have anything to be worried about?

Professional amateurs

The popular vlog Rocketboom did an interview with XML guru Dave Winer in which he gave his take on journalism: "Amateur is not below professional. It's just another way of doing (media). The root of the word amateur is love, and someone who does something for love is an amateur. Someone who does something to pay the bills is a professional. The amateurs have [more integrity than] the professionals. If you're an amateur you have less conflict of interest and less reason not to tell your truth than if you have to pay the bills and please somebody else."

What Dave has to say may be true in theory, but in reality it doesn’t fly. Amateurs can’t really dedicate themselves to performing thorough journalism because the fact is they have to pay the bills doing their own profession. After that job is done, they can entertain themselves however they would like and many in recent years have taken up reading, writing and commenting in the blogosphere.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it is exactly this practice that is today hailed as “Citizen Journalism” which really has nothing at all to do with journalism.

Think quickly about the top political blogs on the Internet. They have massive followings, enough to allow their authors to support themselves and then some. But do they do any real journalism? No. They are just commentary on what’s in the Mainstream Media. Educated and insightful commentary, no doubt. Often better than MSM editorials. But just commentary.

Amy Gahran at Poynter picked up the Winer interview and had her own take: “I think this basic question -- what constitutes integrity in media? -- cuts straight to the heart of the discomfort that many traditional journalists experience when they consider the booming field of citizen journalism and grassroots media. We journalists generally prize integrity. Certain core values and practices of traditional (professional) journalism -- such as objectivity, accuracy, corroboration, avoiding conflicts of interest, transparency, editorial oversight, etc. -- exist in order to enhance our integrity and thus earn the audience's trust.” She later declares, “amateurs can learn to produce high-quality news content.”

Let’s dissect Gahran:

First of all, the “field of citizen journalism and grassroots media” is not “booming.” Who some would consider to be the father of citizen journalism, Dan Gillmor, is changing course after his first attempt as an independent citizen journalism because he did not receive the rate of participation for which he had hoped and he was not able to make it profitable (see “paying the bills”).

Backfence, the start-up citJ project which is taking over Gillmor’s blog has seen tepid results at best.
Even Wikipedia, which isn’t particularly citizen journalism but runs along the same lines, doesn’t produce the kind of dedication one might expect: the Economist (print edition) is the latest to point out that of Wikipedia's millions of users, there is a core of “a few hundred committed volunteers” editing entries.

Secondly, amateurs could definitely “learn to produce high-quality news content,” as Gahran insists. But what’s the point of investing all of that time and money unless they wanted to become actual journalists from which they could draw the paycheck to pay the bills?

And of course the principles of journalism that she lists have little to nothing to do with amateur citizen journalists (bloggers):

  • Objectivity: blogs are inherently biased
  • Accuracy: bloggers don’t really report so what’s there to be accurate about?
  • Corroboration: blogging and commenting are one-man shows…
  • Avoid conflicts of interest: …one-man shows with a personal motive.
  • Transparency: Bloggers are pretty good at this by linking to background material, but some still post and comment anonymously.
  • Editorial oversight: against the whole concept of a blog

So it looks like not only do amateurs have a long way to go to do real journalism, but that if they are ever to do real journalism, they’ll no longer be amateurs. Professionals have nothing to worry about.

Source: Poynter

Monday, October 29, 2007

Citizen journalism resources

Accuracy & fact-checking

Tips for Fact Checking - Web style Guide
Northern Ireland's government gives advice on fact checking and ways to improve accuracy. Specifically, tips are offered for self-editing and fact checking, with emphasis on providing documentation and correctly publishing sources.

ASNE handbook - Accuracy section
As part of the American Society of Newspaper Editor's handbook on journalism, the "Details Matter" section is presented as a combination of personal anecdotes, advice and techniques to improve journalistic accuracy. Featured are checklists for writers to reference while putting together a story, as well as fact-checking statistics and help.

American Press Institute Fact-Checking Resources
Here’s a collection of links to resources that aid in fact checking. Though mainly pertaining to political issues and politicians, also included are language, biographical and geographical reference tools.

Fact Checking Tips and Pitfalls
Aimed primarily at reporters, but also journalists and writers of all backgrounds, The News and Observer, a North Carolina newspaper, presents a checklist of accuracy tips as well as potential pitfalls. The newspaper encourages journalists to "find a routine" for fact-checking that "works for you," while offering general background information as well.

Fact Checkers and Copy Editors
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Park Library offers advice on "smart, safe and efficient fact checking" to encourage greater accuracy. Offering advice on how to carry out research, websites to find resources and links to professional fact checkers, this presentation offers a wealth of resources.

My Research Needs Dot Com
Here’s a fee-based service for new and aspiring writers that offers them the chance to work with a professional fact checker. Katrina O’Brien offers fact checking, research, interview, image search and several other background investigation services.

Media Fact Checker
Given a list of myths and actual facts, users are given the chance to pick out the true information and separate it from misinterpreted data.'s Media Fact Checker presents journalists and writers with examples of media hoaxes and exaggerations that are easily debunked through fact checking.

Fast Fact Check
The library in Arlington, Virginia, offers a list of resources for quick fact checking, mostly of a political nature. Categories of resources include political information, directories, and reference books and websites.

Poynter Online: Getting it Right - A Passion for Accuracy
Poynter Online offers not only many accuracy guidelines but also personal anecdotes and links to other websites to promote improved accuracy practices. In this article, Chip Scanlan offers practical advice to fellow journalists to increase the accuracy level of any piece.

O'Reilly Digital Media: 10 Journalism Tips for E-Writers
Even online journalists and bloggers sometimes need pointers on how to write a better story. These tips offer advice on accuracy and organization as well as several other related topics.

Publicity Hound's Accuracy Tips
A short article that contains relevant tips for those engaging in interviews with contacts. Pre- and post-interview guidelines and checklists along with corresponding links to other helpful material are provided, as is a collection of suggestions about how a journalist should carry him/herself during an interview.

Is That a Fact?
Though designed primarily for students, journalists of any age can stand to benefit from the pointers and advice offered by In addition, the site also offers 13 how-to examples of fact-checking and accuracy tests.

Accuracy in Media
Accuracy in Media strives "for fairness, balance and accuracy in news reporting" and posts several stories a week on various topics that illustrate this commitment. Unlike other sites, this page and its related content are best used as examples of accuracy in the media rather than as a collection of helpful hints and tips.

Delusions of Accuracy
In an article for the Columbia Journalism Review, Ariel Hart suggests we should become more comfortable with the fact that we make mistakes - and more open about admitting and correcting them.


J-Lab says it "helps news organizations and citizens use new information ideas ... to develop new ways for people to engage in critical public policy issues." To this end, the site provides case studies of political issues from the media (many of these are multi-media and interactive), as well as blogs and podcasts with a similar function. Additionally, a half dozen examples of participatory content on websites are listed as a means of providing an example for those seeking to take the Web to the next level.

Brandeis University's Institute for Investigative Journalism
Brandeis University's Institute for Investigative Journalism provides case studies for citizen journalists who seek to promote thoroughness and accuracy in their work. Additionally, the site offers a special section for students, along with areas of emphasis that include political/social/gender justice projects and an examination of flaws in the mainstream media. Offline, the Institute also has internships devoted to budding citizen journalists, and offers programs in which students can learn more about investigative journalism and research techniques.

Diversity Toolbox
The Society of Professional Journalists provides a list of tips and recommendations for journalists trying to provide fair and balanced coverage of any story. "This is not at all about being politically correct; it’s about doing good journalism. Fair, accurate, balanced, solid and thorough journalism."

Journalism and Mass Communication Resources
Combining links from dozens of websites and listing them under several distinct categories (CyberJournalism, Gender relations, Media Law, etc.), this site at the University of Iowa is an excellent starting point for citizen journalists who seek to learn more about the subjects of their stories. The wealth of links listed here provide a useful resource for the promotion of thorough and accurate writing.

Research Databases from CSU Long Beach
Though designed primarily for CSU Long Beach students, this site serves as a guide for various internet resources, databases to locate articles, and other research tools. The goal of the site is to "provide a comprehensive starting point for research in the field of journalism," and to promote thoroughness in citizen journalism.

Research in Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon
This site is a repository for other databases that can help journalists in researching the topics of their stories. Pointers include not only web resources but also links to databases for finding scholarly articles, contacting experts and doing basic background research on almost any topic.

Journalistic Research at University of Oregon
Research is integral to maintaining journalistic thoroughness, and this site provides (in PDF form) a list of tips as well as a walk-through of how to compile information that can be used to write an article or story. The document contains not only a list of questions that can be used as a guide for obtaining relevant and practical background material but also a list of potential research tools and tips.

Journalist Express
The Journalist Express serves as a central collection of links to various news organizations and websites that can be used to obtain background information for a news article or story. Though the sources presented here are mainly in the mainstream media, a few citizen journalism and other sites are also present. SuperSearch's SuperSearch feature allows users to easily comb through encyclopedia, major news sites, citizen journalist sites or major search engines to find out more about a subject. By condensing so many resources into a single page, the SuperSearch tool can be extremely useful for performing background research on almost any topic.

Web Resources for Journalists
Unlike other resource mongers, this site has links to online resources only. These range in type from search engines, to reporting tools, to legal resources to the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB). All are potentially useful tools for ensuring a greater degree of thoroughness and accuracy in citizen journalism.

Completeness and Exclusion in Journalism Ethics
This site provides a case study in which journalistic integrity and thoroughness were not maintained, and serves as an example of "what not to do." While the article itself originates from the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, its implications and high regard for journalistic integrity are universal and equally applicable today.

This site contains the "25 most useful resources" for journalists seeking to improve the depth and accuracy of their stories. For journalists looking to learn more about their quarry or to find out background material, the site is equally valuable. Setting Webtips apart from other collections of links is its list of hints and tips that accompany each link.

Web Resources for Newsrooms
Though ostensibly designed with TV news reporting in mind, this site provides a plethora of online research tools to aid journalists in any field to better find what they need. The databases include UC's Datamine, guides to almanacs and encyclopedias, and the requisite search tool for use with mass media news sites.

Journalism Publications and Resources for Writers
With a small collection of links to various international newspapers, the Sun Oasis site is best suited to journalists seeking to write or learn more about international affairs. The site also has a special resource section devoted to 9/11 that contains links to articles and resources regarding both the attack and the war on terrorism.

Journalism Research Pages
The API provides a list of citizen journalist pages for reference purposes and to help writers learn about current events without the bias of the mass media. The collection is especially notable for its emphasis on facilitating independent resources rather than CNN or other "big name" sites.
NuzGeeks provides a database of videos, articles and other publications devoted to improving thoroughness in citizen journalism and exposing shortcomings in the mass media. Its strongest point is the inclusion of audio and video tools to help facilitate an understanding of what's needed in citizen journalism.

No Frills Jumplist
As produced by San Francisco State University's Journalism School, the No Frills Jumplist provides links to online reference works, local government websites, a "people finder" link and links to most major news media organizations. In addition, it links to sites designed to specifically help journalists achieve the goal of more balanced and thorough reporting.


Webdiary Ethics
An Austrialian blogger presents his professional journalistic code of ethics in this piece. Though placed in the "Fairness" section, this article could rightly be placed under almost any of our modules due to its emphasis on all five principles that we hope citizen journalists will internalize. The code of ethics as presented here is in the form of two lists: one that the author expects from himself as a journalist, and the other of what he expects from his contacts. All tips presented are useful and encourage respect and fairness toward sources and fellow journalists alike.

ASNE: JVI Values: Fairness and Balance
The American Society of Newspaper Editors provides a list of ways providing fairness and balance in citizen journalism. Also provided are tips for aspiring journalists and professionals, as well as ways of improving balanced coverage in of controversial topics in the media.

Rethinking Objectivity
As authors such as Dan Gillmor maintain, objectivity in news reporting is nearly impossible to achieve. This article explores the ramifications of this perspective against the backdrop of the war on terror and other contemporary news issues. The piece’s author, Brent Cunningham, does not entirely dismiss the importance of objectivity to journalism (citizen and otherwise) but instead calls for a different kind of objectivity when pursuing highly contested media events.

Journalism and Objectivity
Fairness, journalism and objectivity are deconstructed from the point of view of a journalist blogger in this erudite essay. A comparison between forms of objectivity and fairness in more traditional forms of media and contemporary, internet journalism are presented as well. is an overarching website that includes dozens of links to news stories with case studies in media fairness. In their own words, " provides database resources, message boards, and searchable article links for exploring virtually any fairness-related topic."

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
This website features articles exploring fairness in several categories, with dozens of real-life examples of unfair or unbalanced reporting. Topics include the war in Iraq, the conflict in the Middle East, and immigration in the United States. In addition to these case studies, the site also serves as a repository for articles in the media that are critical of current mass media biases.

AIM: Accuracy In Media
AIM is a citizen media group designed to encourage accuracy and balance in mass media as well as among grassroots groups. AIM provides case studies and commentaries as well as a host of regular columnists and blogs regarding the aforementioned journalistic practices. Though it lacks any list of tips for journalists seeking fairness and balance, the site makes up for this in the sheer volume and number of columns and examples presented.

Rhetorica: Media and Political Bias
Rhetorica is devoted to detecting bias in the media and in politics. The site offers a checklist of "Critical Questions for Detecting Bias" as well as a structural breakdown of types of bias in the mass media. In addition, a theoretical approach to bias prevention and a raison d'etre for the practice of fairness assertion are offered.

The Media fairness and elections
The Hill, the newspaper for and about Congress, presents a series of examples exposing and explaining political biases in the media, with commentary from both the conservative and liberal sides of the issue.

Common Dreams: Fairness and accuracy in reporting
Common Dreams offers another example of bias in the mass media from a political perspective. The media advisory presented here addresses problems with coverage of the Iraq War and examines the American response to revelations that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

The Free Press
The Free Press is an online news magazine devoted to promoting fairness in the media and to producing its own articles that meet a high degree of accuracy and balance. Putting out its own "columns and dispatches," the Free Press addresses the issues of journalistic integrity while also presenting numerous case studies that demonstrate what to do and what not to do as a journalist.

Media Research Center
The Media Research Center offers not only case studies in media bias, but also assessments and extensive analyses of topics related to media balance and bias. Their "Media Bias Basics" walk users through the finer points of fairness in the media and each offers an extensive study on each topic complete with statistics and history. Notably, the site also offers a wealth of case studies in media bias through the use of posting videos, an exceptionally useful multimedia tool. The videos can be found here. Citizens Coalition for Responsible Media examines bias in the media through blogs, case studies and the "Media Bias Outrage of the Week," a column devoted to pointing out the most egregious acts of unbalanced coverage in the mass media. Notably, these also take the form of both video feeds and written articles, enhancing the multimedia quality of the site.

Media Awareness Network: How to Detect Bias in the News
Unlike other sites devoted to asserting and pointing out media biases, the Media Awareness Network instead offers guidelines and tips for aspiring journalists seeking to eliminate bias in their work, while also offering a checklist of ways in which both journalists and observers can find bias in the newspaper and online. Though the link here is only to a checklist/handout, other, similar articles are also available from the handout's parent site.

AlterNet, a venerable site for exploring bias and accuracy problems with the mass media, has added a new dimension with AlterNet Video, a section of the site devoted to exposing bias from a multimedia perspective. The site may be useful not only in disseminating case studies in media biases, but also as a teaching tool, as the site provides a daily stream of articles and blogs devoted to the same ends.


Our Media Voice: Campaign for Accountability
With a focus on broadcast television, Our Media Voice points out bias in the mainstream media, as well as instances in which transparency is absent. "Our media, owned by only a handful of conglomerates, has a profound influence upon our society. They have created a universal culture that shapes how we see our world and drives public opinion and public policy," the site says. Unlike other media outlets, Our Media Voice also promotes citizen journalism through an emphasis on feedback from readers and journalists alike. Media Transparency
Here’s a repository of resources for citizen journalists looking for more information in transparency in the mass media and among fellow bloggers and other citizen journalists. Additionally, the site features case studies as well as news articles related to the topics of transparency in blogging and citizen media reports.

Media Matters
Media Matters is a progressive website that aims to "systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation" and bias. To this end, the site presents numerous examples of conservative influence over the mainstream media through several different forms of presentation: video, audio and print. These case studies are integral to citizen journalists seeking to point out (or avoid) the biases inherent in the mainstream media.

FEMA's Dirty Little Secret
A trailer park housing refugees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina serves as a backdrop for this case study, as it examines the topic of transparency in news reports originating with the federal government. As part of the interview, the issue of press freedom is delved into, and readers can choose mp3, streaming video or written transcripts as their medium of choice for learning more.

SPJ: Freedom of Information
This section of the Society of Professional Journalists’ website is devoted to opening government records to scrutiny. To this end, it provides links and resources to journalists regarding government cover-ups and the like. The site also provides a case study of reporters covering stories in prisons as a means of demonstrating a lack of transparency and how to get around it.

How Mass Media Simulate Political Transparency
This academic essay from Yale University examines the lack of transparency in the mass media. Through the use of case studies and examples (with special emphasis on political scandals), the site demonstrates the causes and effects of a lack of transparency in the major news reporting organizations in the United States.

Media Transparency: The Money Behind Conservative Media
Media Transparency lists articles citing sources of funding for Republican and conservative Christian groups, and demonstrates through case studies the negative effects this funding has on mainstream media outlets. Additionally, the site provides a history of conservative manipulation of the media and a database containing hundreds of grants given by conservative organizations to media groups and think tanks.

Transparency Now
An eclectic mix of video, sound and written articles, Transparency Now examines the issues of funding and bias in film/TV as well as the press. Composed almost entirely of former journalist Ken Sanes' essays, the site also contains examinations of pop culture in relation to American society as a special section devoted to simulation and transparency in the mass media.

Accuracy, Transparency and Fairness
Using Indonesia as a case study of a nation in which the accuracy, transparency and fairness journalism are not present in journalism outlets, UCLA's AsiaMedia institute gives tips and pointers to journalists in the United States through the use of the Indonesian media as a foil. Though brief, the article also chronicles why bias occurs as well as its effects on the public when media transparency is non-existent.

Case Study in Media Corruption
Though difficult to understand for those not directly involved with internal medicine, presented here is a "case study of media corruption" with regards to the pharmaceutical industry and Readers Digest. It examines the links between funding of advertisements and the featuring of books that promote advertisers' products in the magazine.

Methods and Bias of the Media
In this essay, poster Michael Leza examines bias in the media through a comparison of mainstream sitcoms and other fictional, staged television programs. "What many of these same people are not aware of (and how could they be?) is that when they sit down to watch the nightly news, or their favorite artificial news-flavored product, they are in fact watching a show that has been just as managed, planned, and scripted as any episode of Seinfeld was."

Center for Media and Democracy
Investigative journalism and the influence of politics on mass media are the focus of the CMD. As part of its PR Watch tool, the CMD presents case studies of journalism in which bias and a lack of transparency are both evident and detrimental. The site says, "The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media 'of, by and for the people.'"

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Both accuracy and transparency are of paramount importance in citizen journalism, and this site attempts to tackle both these issues in regard to journalism and the Middle East. Despite its geographic focus, the site is a virtual repository for case studies of mass media biases.

Reporting Wars
Reporting Wars targets media bias with a special eye on current events in Iraq and the United States. Additionally, and perhaps more helpfully, the site presents on its homepage a side-by-side comparison of headlines from various newsgroups reporting on the same events. Evidence of slanting the news is laid bare, and each example can readily be used as a case study to show the lack of transparency in the mainstream media.

Media Lens
Similar to many other sites on this list, Media Lens focuses on "correcting the distorted vision of the corporate media" in major stories around the world. Specifically, the site targets the BBC, though it also offers criticism of the U.S. news media and offers tips and insights from a number of bloggers whose works are posted on the site.

What's Wrong With the News?
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting offers a critical assessment of the mainstream media, dividing examples of bias and a lack of transparency into nine categories as well as case studies and analyses of bias, though the site does not offer any specific tips for citizen journalists regarding transparency.

Blinded by Science
The article offers a case study in science and political bias carrying over into and adversely affecting the mass media. Chiefly, it discusses the problems of politicized reporting and issues of bias, accuracy and corruption in the media from a scientist's perspective.

Podcasting as a Weapon for the Right
From comes this single case study that analyzes the possibility that the media, while embracing new technology on par with that of citizen journalists, is simultaneously falling prey to the same conservative groups who exacerbated a lack of transparency in radio. The issue should be of concern to citizen journalists not only because it deals with the compromising of a medium long known for its progressive outlook but also because it demonstrates the inability of mass media to escape bias regardless of technological advancements.

Journalism, Transparency and the Public Trust
Here’s an academic analysis of transparency in the mass media, and its effects on the public. Most importantly, the study deals with the issues of blogs and transparency. It also includes recommendations for improving transparency in the media and examines the implications of a public that has no access to a dialogue with the mass media.


The Memory Hole
The Memory Hole is a collection of case studies dealing with government shortcomings and corporate fraud and whose goal is to preserve information for journalists that would otherwise be either lost or unreleased. To this end, the site contains numerous "government files, corporate memos, police reports, congressional testimony" and similar documents. Additionally, the Memory Hole seeks to preserve independent journalism that is allowed to be critical of the government and those in power.

Freedom Forum
Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to a free press and free speech, collects and analyzes articles gleaned from the mainstream media. Its utility as a repository of articles is aided in part by the fact that the site also has a separate set of links related to the upholding of First Amendment rights and journalistic independence. With additional links to the First Amendment Center and Newsroom Diversity Programs, the site provides services to journalists aside from research tools.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Focusing mainly on journalists themselves rather than the stories they cover, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press promotes journalistic integrity and independence in the face of intimidation from the mass media and the government. Mainly a collection of articles related to journalists and their exploits, the site also provides guidelines on how to access juvenile courts and electronic records, a guide to state-by-state phone taping laws and other sections that may be helpful to journalists seeking greater independence.

Poynter Online: The Value of Independence
Poynter author Bob Steele gives advice and pointers to journalists seeking to promote a higher degree of independence in their work. Pulling from two sources, including from the Society of Professional Journalists, Steele offers citizen journalists advice on what it means to be an independent reporter and steps that can be taken to enhancing credibility while also upholding ethical journalistic standards.

The Ethics of Civic Journalism: Independence as the Guide
The relationship between journalists and the public they serve is examined in this article, which raises the questions, "Should reporters be investigators of system failure or initiators of solutions? Should journalists be detached observers or activist participants?" and gives advice on how journalism can best meet the needs of an author's home community. Through championing an approach that is independent both of the government and the petty disputes some journalists become bogged down in, author Bob Steele hopes to reinvigorate public trust and faith in journalists.

Journalism Tools has an extensive section of tools for citizens, professional journalists, students and teachers on independence and the other foundation topics. While not focused on citizen media, these link provide advice and examples from professionals and major media organizations such as CBS that are easily adaptable.

Inside BBC Journalism: Independence
As part of its series on journalistic integrity and ethics, the BBC presents this module on independence, which chronicles the importance of the ideal as applied to the BBC's many reporters. As related through numerous case studies, the section "examines how BBC journalists strive to make programmes independently of commercial, political and other interests" in order to provide the public with a factual, unbiased view on world events.

Journalistic Integrity and Independence of the Press
Journalistic independence is applied to Africa through two case studies in this document from that chronicles the struggle to first create and then preserve an independent media in three east African nations. The document contains a list of duties for independent journalists.

The Fund for Independence in Journalism
A non-profit organization aimed at providing for and supporting investigative reporting, the Fund for Independence in Journalism helps fund various programs designed to counter the efforts of the mainstream media to introduce bias into journalism. The site provides a list of facts, each of which chronicles an instance in which politics took precedence over journalistic integrity and the news story that emerged was steeped in bias. The site also chronicles press intimidation, control of information and sponsored news.

A Handbook of Reuters Journalism
Reuters provides its own guidelines and advice for journalists seeking to provide balanced and independent reporting of current events. Independence is "crucial to Reuters' ability to report on companies, institutions and individuals in the financial markets, many of whom are also their customers, without regard for anything other than accuracy, balance and the truth." As with the guidelines set forth by CBS, these are not originally designed with citizen journalists in mind, though they are readily applicable.

Digital Independence
While most sites promote the formation or upkeep of independent media outlets, the site serves as a helpful resource for independent and citizen journalists. The small site is devoted primarily to two topics: globalization blowback and independent media. With its emphasis on digital media, however, the site's true value lies in its collection of links to other resources that might be of use to citizen journalists.

The Media's Independence Problem
As part of the World Policy Journal, author Jonathan Mermin uses the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example of non-independent media and the problems associated with having journalists colluding with the military and government when writing their stories or reporting. Focusing on the First Amendment’s provision for an independent press, Mermin explores the journey of the American mass media from an independent entity to one dependent on the government for its information and funding.

The Rise of Media Independence
This article by blogger-journalist Doc Searls in the technology publication Linux Journal is important for its examination of media as a one- or two-way interaction between journalists and the public. While the author encourages efforts to increase media independence, he also recognizes that today's media is anything but that and makes suggestions for reforms. The article is also important for its emphasis on news that can be consumed or produced with equal ease, a topic of definite interest and importance to citizen journalists.

Media Independence: Is Self-Regulation an Answer, from
In light of the problems associated with government-regulated media, the World Bank explores the possibility of self-regulation among media outlets as a means of creating a responsible press corps in developing nations. Though not aimed primarily at U.S. citizen journalists who focus on domestic issues, the article does make a number of insights into citizen journalism in the developing world and the need for a responsible cadre of journalists to accurately and responsibly serve the populations of developing nations.

Celebrating Media Independence
An editorial in the alternative publication the Berkeley Daily Planet, this piece decries criticism of articles in the New York Times that are themselves highly critical of the Bush administration's policies after 9/11. The author calls for greater oversight of politicians and a loosening of the reins currently used to keep the mass media in the service of those in power. Though it features no pointers or tips, the essay is valuable for its insights into the contemporary media's role in restricting public information access.

Independent Media Center
The Independent Media Center describes itself as "a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage." The site both encourages and provides examples of independent news media that are not part of larger media conglomerates, and also features an option that allows users to publish their own stories or videos on the site, a priceless tool for citizen journalists seeking to get their story out.

The Big Ten at
The Nation provides a list of the 10 largest media conglomerates, including any subsidiaries.

Other citizen media resources

Numerous online journalism tutorials related to reporting and the Web.

News U
Run by the non-profit Poynter Institute, it has a number of good, free online journalism courses open to everyone.

Personal Media Learning Center
A good resource containing interviews with citizen media pioneers, summaries of media law and more.
A site funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with many resources for editors, as well as a growing online section.

Investigative Reporters Resource Center
The center offers tips on developing leads and using public records. You can also buy cleaned public data from them if you’re interested. Check out the IRE listserv as well.

Reporters Cookbook
A wiki with how-tos, particularly related to computer-assisted reporting.

Florida Public Records Handbook
In this valuable handbook, Joe Adams highlights Florida stories that have used public records in them.

How bloggers can become good journalists

10 journalism tips for bloggers, podcasters and other e-writers

By Spencer Critchley

Blogs, podcasts and e-newsletters make it easy for anyone to be a journalist. But just as the debut of desktop publishing led to some very ugly documents, these newer tools are spawning some very sloppy journalism, which does no good for the reputation of participatory media. Here are some tips on how good journalists do useful work:

1. Respect the value of people's time.
Anyone who publishes is making a deal with their audience: This will be more rewarding than real life would have been. Know your point, get to it quickly, and make your content dense with value. We live in a narcissistic age, and free access to world-wide distribution is not helping. We all need to remember: It's not fascinating just because I said it.

2. Have a strong focus, and relate everything to it.
A good focus is a simple idea that people care about--in a newspaper story, it's the lede. It's a hard discipline to learn, but you can really only get one good idea across in any one article or program--everything else either supports and develops that idea, or it conflicts with and confuses it. Think of Beethoven's Fifth as a model: the whole first movement is based on four notes.

3. Look for the heat in your subject.
Appeal is emotional, not intellectual. Even theoretical physicists get excited more by primal motives like pursuit, struggle and triumph than they do by abstract concepts. This primacy of emotion is routinely abused in mass media--hence the prevalence of sex, death, greed and vanity--but you don't have to go that far, just look for what people will really care about in your content and use that as a guide. For example, this headline and first sentence draws you into a recent Scientific American blog about a primitive member of the genus Hibbertopterus:
Supersized Water Scorpion Strolled Scotland's Shores
The other day I had an unfortunate run-in with a cockroach in my apartment...
4. Whatever your subject, write about people, physical objects and actions.
These are what engage the imagination and the emotions, and concentrating on them has the added benefit of aiding clarity (see next item). Avoid abstractions, generalities, jargon and cliches.

5. Use plain speech, and talk like a real person.
Too many people have been trained to use big words and complicated sentences to build an edifice to hide behind. If a simpler word can be used with no loss of meaning, use it. Same goes for fewer words vs. more. If you can't say it plainly, that may mean you don't understand it well enough yet.

6. Avoid adjectives and adverbs wherever possible.
They seldom have any impact. It works much better to find the right nouns and verbs. As Mark Twain said, "If you find an adjective, kill it." Try it, you'll be amazed at the difference it makes. Compare "The widow Douglas was sanctimonious and hypocritical" with the way Twain wrote it in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn:
The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it.
7. Opinions are not facts, even your opinions.
Opinions make personal journalism lively. But be sure you know the difference between opinion and fact, and make it clear to your readers as well. It's all too easy to jump to conclusions when you're predisposed to believe something. This is the source of deluges of unreliable information on the Web.

8. Identify your sources.
Just asserting a fact is unpersuasive -- even in ALL CAPS with lots of exclamation marks!!! -- and it contributes nothing to a discussion. Your audience needs to know where this information comes from, so they can judge its credibility.

9. Identify interests.
If someone appears to be an expert, that's one thing. If they also have a financial or other interest in you believing their version of reality, that's another. Be skeptical. Good journalists have to assume that everyone, even people they like, may be lying.

10. Fact-check.
Reputable pro media outlets use professional fact checkers, and they still manage to make mistakes frequently. People may be citing you as a source, so try to get the details right. Related to this: spell-check!

Citizen journalism questions and answers

What is citizen journalism?

    It is community news and information shared online and/or in print, with contributions written by users and readers. It can be any combination of text, image, audio file, podcast or video. Stories typically include user comments, fostering additional discussion.

What else is it called?

Grassroots journalism, community news, we media, open source journalism, folk journalism, bottom-up journalism, etc.

How does citizen journalism differ from citizens media?

Citizen journalism is a narrow subset of citizens media. Citizen journalism chiefly centers on covering news and events in your community, whether it's a major news event that someone captures on a camera phone, or a podcast of a political rally, or coverage of a swim meet or little league game. Often, citizen journalism can fill in the gap in local news coverage that newspapers have abandoned.

Citizens media covers a wider swath. It includes any kind of user-created content — from whimsical videos to music to short stories — and isn't confined to news or journalism.

What do I need to get started in citizen journalism?

You can contribute to an existing website or start your own site or publication. There are hundreds of citizen journalism sites, ranging from hyper-local sites that cover a community — such as Baristanet or iBrattleboro or the New Haven Independent — to broader efforts such as NowPublic or South Korea's OhmyNews. carries a lengthy list of citizens media projects.

The tools are quite simple and relatively inexpensive. To have a citizen journalism site you will need a Content Management System (CMS), a server to host the site, a domain name, and an Internet connection.

What is a content management system?

It is software that handles the basic tasks of a community site, like story submissions, comments, a calendar of events, links, and administrative tasks such as managing user names and passwords. There are a number of CMS packages that are open source and available to use for free. Geeklog, PHPNuke and Drupal (which runs Ourmedia) are three examples.

What human resources do I need?

To run a site, you will need at least one moderator/editor. It helps to have a web programmer who is familiar with installing scripts on servers. It is handy to have someone who is good at web graphics and design.

Once you get going, your audience will expect your site to be available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. You may want additional moderators to help ease the time burden.

You need an active and engaged audience of contributors for the site to be successful.

How do I attract users?

Think about the people who would find a platform to break news most useful, and target them first. Activists, nonprofit groups, cultural organizations, and people who already blog are good places to start. Send them an email about your project, and invite them to contribute. When they do, make sure they get comments. Comments are the currency of a citizen journalism site (unless your site pays its contributors, like OhmyNews or

Unless your community is very Internet-savvy and has many local blogs that will link to you, offline marketing for a local community journalism site may be your best bet. Print up postcards and pass out buttons, stickers or any other swag you can think of. Clever T-shirts help. Try to partner with other exisiting local media, and connect with the local colleges and community centers.

What is a typical day like for a moderator?

It will vary, but usually the day begins with checking the site to see what submissions and comments have been added. Stories get approved and posted. Comments get read and, if necessary, deleted. This cycle is repeated throughout the day — midday, late afternoon, early evening, late evening. There are sometimes questions from users about the site or a request for a new password that must be handled.

What is a bad day like?

Get up to find the site has been hit by a spam bot, leaving links to Cialis ads on hundreds of stories that must be deleted. Or, a user has made an offensive comment and one must deal with the aftermath of apologies and patching things up. Or, get up to find the site is down, forcing you to spend hours with your tech team and hosting company to figure out what brought on the crash. Meanwhile, users are IMing you messages like, "I think the site is down."

What is a great day like?

A user of the site breaks a story with solid coverage of an event or issue that concerns them, leading to good discussion and possible community action.

How does citizen journalism mesh with traditional media?

Traditional media are intrigued by grassroots journalism. Some reporters use citizen journalism sites to get ideas for stories to follow up on. Some reporters participate by contributing facts or information they've learned about a story. Citizen journalism
site users read traditional media and comment on things they have read. The two can peacefully co-exist and support one another.

By Christopher Grotke, Mediagiraffe
and Jarah Euston, FresnoFamous

The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism

"Citizen journalism." It's one of the hottest buzzwords in the news business these days. Many news executives are probably thinking about implementing some sort of citizen-journalism initiative; a small but growing number have already done so.

But there's plenty of confusion about citizen journalism. What exactly is it? Is this something that's going to be essential to the future prosperity of news companies?

In my conversations and communications with editors, I sense plenty of confusion about the concept. There's enthusiasm about experimenting in some quarters -- about harnessing the power of an audience permitted for the first time to truly participate in the news media. But mostly I hear concern and healthy skepticism.

This article is designed to help publishers and editors understand citizen journalism and how it might be incorporated into their Web sites and legacy media. We'll look at how news organizations can employ the citizen-journalism concept, and we'll approach it by looking at the different levels or layers available. Citizen journalism isn't one simple concept that can be applied universally by all news organizations. It's much more complex, with many potential variations.

So let's explore the possibilities, from dipping a toe into the waters of participatory journalism to embracing citizen reporting with your organization's full involvement. We'll start out slow and build toward the most radical visions of what's possible.

1. The first step: Opening up to public comment

For some publishers skittish about allowing anyone to publish under their brand name, enabling readers to attach comments to articles on the Web represents a start. At its simplest level, user comments offer the opportunity for readers to react to, criticize, praise or add to what's published by professional journalists. If you look at news Web sites that allow user comments (and at this writing, it's still a small minority of all news sites), you'll see a mix of user reactions within article comments. But almost universally, you'll see occasional reader comments that add to what's published. Readers routinely use such comments to bring up some point that was missed by the writer, or add new information that the reporter didn't know about. Such readers can make the original story better.

Which content should be open to reader comments? Blogs traditionally have included reader comments (though even some of the most popular independent blogs eschew them; e.g., Instapundit), so that's a no-brainer. Some sites -- including Poynter Online, where you're reading this -- support user comments on all articles. Do that and you're on your way toward the citizen-journalism experience.

But why not go further; think outside the box a bit? Consider allowing reader comments on things like calendar listings, obituaries, letters to the editor, even classified ads. Let's think about this: Why does a letter to the editor from a member of the public have to stop with that letter? Why not allow it to spark an online conversation? Comments on a calendar listing might attract citizen reviews from people who've seen a speaker or performer before (an interesting and useful public service). Obituary comments will draw remembrances from people who knew the deceased.

Even allowing comments on classified ads -- especially if they are in categories where sellers don't pay for the ad -- can be a fascinating exercise and a potentially good public service.

A few words of caution: Some news Web sites have had trouble with readers posting objectionable content in comment areas. This can be at least partially avoided by requiring users to register with the site and submit their names and e-mail addresses before being allowed to post comments, and by establishing a system that makes it easy for site users to report objectionable comments.

I don't want to paint this as easy. As media Web sites that allow comments have learned, you do need to watch what people post. The key may be to realize that opening up to reader comments requires vigilance, even if the number of problems you are likely to encounter may be slim.

Still, many publishers seemingly remain reluctant to take this first step into citizen journalism. Even The Northwest Voice, a stand-alone citizen-journalism Web site and newspaper owned by The Bakersfield Californian, which I'll mention in the layers below, doesn't allow reader comments. Two-way conversation is an imperative characteristic of most citizen journalism, yet it appears to remain threatening to many people in the journalism and publishing professions.


  • (Ventura County Star, Calif.).
  • Poynter Online (The Poynter Institute's Web site).

    2. Second step: The citizen add-on reporter

    A small step up the ladder is to recruit citizen add-on contributions for stories written by professional journalists. I mean more than just adding a "User Comments" link. I mean that with selected stories, solicit information and experiences from members of the public, and add them to the main story to enhance it.

    Here's an example: A series of car break-ins is occurring at trailhead parking lots in your area. A reporter writes a short article about the problem, identifying some of the locations of the vandalism. As a sidebar to the conventionally written story, trail users are invited to post their experiences of having their cars broken into, including submitting photos.

    This approach turns a standard 10-inch minor article into an ongoing story, with victims or witnesses to the crimes contributing information and news over a longer time period. (Until the culprit is caught and the story fades.) The information from the public serves as a warning to other trail users about which parking lots have had break-in problems. The public-submitted information could even be crafted by the news staff into an online map of crime reports, featuring victims' self-reports and photos.

    (This is another one of those areas that requires vigilance. Imagine, for example, if someone posted a note with a photo of someone apparently breaking into a car, and the suspect was identifiable. If that person was an innocent car owner who locked his keys in the car ... well, you can imagine the libel threat.)

    Many (but certainly not all) stories can benefit from this treatment. A story, say, about bicyclists being harassed by motorists is the ideal type of story to solicit reports from the public.

    Such an approach to citizen contributions isn't something you'll want to do on every news story, but, when appropriate, it's a great way to offer the community better and deeper coverage than is possible with a lone professional reporter. So look for stories that can benefit from the citizen add-on approach.

    Examples: If you know of any news sites employing this approach, please e-mail me.

    3. Now we're getting serious: Open-source reporting

    If you're willing to take yet another step up the ladder of citizen journalism, consider what's sometimes referred to as "open-source" or "participatory" journalism or reporting. This is another one of those techniques that you'll use once in a while, when appropriate to a particular story or project.

    The term generally is understood to mean a collaboration between a professional journalist and his/her readers on a story, where readers who are knowledgeable on the topic are asked to contribute their expertise, ask questions to provide guidance to the reporter, or even do actual reporting which will be included in the final journalistic product.

    There are various approaches that a reporter can take under the umbrella of this general model. One would be to announce up front that you are working on a particular story, and ask readers to guide you. An example would be if you have an interview scheduled with a famous politician or celebrity. Announce that you want to go into the interview armed with questions submitted by your readers. Pick out the best ones, add your own, then do the interview.

    Take it a step further: Distribute a draft of your article before "official" publication to the readers who've helped you out, getting feedback to "perfect" the article before it gets wide readership. Reporters who publish on Web sites or on blogs can do this by publishing a draft online, getting public feedback, then later publishing the polished version on the Web as well as then publishing in a print edition.

    An alternative to simply taking readers' advice and incorporating it into the article invisibly is to build specific suggestions into the story and give the readers credit. One technique involves adding pop-up notes on a story that highlight reader ideas; these can appear when a Web site reader mouses over a "hot" word or phrase.

    More advanced forms of open-source reporting involve a collaboration between writer and readers. This could take the form of requesting that readers with knowledge or involvement in a topic do actual reporting, which is then incorporated into the final published story. Payment for readers' work might be as simple as credit in the finished article, or event actual cash payment. Obviously, it will behoove the reporter to double-check reader reporting so as not to get duped.

    Also (perhaps) fitting in this category of citizen journalism is the reader panel. Some newspapers have developed databases of volunteer readers willing to be interviewed by reporters. When a writer needs to find a group of sources to be interviewed for a story project, he/she can search the database for certain characteristics and contact them. Or reader-panel members can be used in some of the ways described in the paragraphs above.


  • The Spokesman-Review/APME reader panel.
  • If you know of any other news sites deploying this approach, please e-mail me.

    4. The citizen bloghouse

    Blogging started out as an "everyman" phenomenon (and now, it seems, almost everyone has a blog), but then professional journalists took up the form, too. But the real promise of blogs remains with the non-journalists, for whom blogging has given a powerful and inexpensive publishing tool to reach out to the world with their stories and thoughts.

    A great way to get citizens involved in a news Web site is to simply invite them to blog for it. A number of news sites do this now, and some citizen blogs are consistently interesting reads.

    Community blogs
    A couple different approaches work for citizen blogs on news Web sites. The first is simply to invite anyone who's interested to start a blog, by offering a blog hosting service. (Try using a service like Blogdigger Local to find local bloggers to invite.) What can turn into a long list of citizen blogs are listed by category on a blog table of contents page. And a main citizen-blogs page can highlight new posts to the various blogs as they are published. Or site editors can watch the citizen blog postings and select the best to be highlighted on the main blog page. Yet another interesting approach is an aggregator application which creates a sort of Über-blog featuring the newest entries from a variety of citizen blogs, continuously updated.

    Your community might already have a Web site that's aggregating local blogs (like or Rex Sorgatz's Aggregator) -- in which case, perhaps there are partnership opportunities to be explored.

    The other model is to be selective, inviting people who you think would be good additions to the Web site to start blogging under your news site's brand name. This might mean seeking out local people who already have independent blogs and encouraging them to move over to the news Web site -- perhaps with enticements such as free hosting, promises of promotion to increase their blog audience and visibility, or even money. Or accept "applications" from bloggers, saying you'll choose the best to be published on your site (and perhaps paying them a modest fee).

    If your site takes the selective approach, it's worth thinking about what topics the blogs might cover. The best strategy may be to have citizen blogs that complement what the news staff produces. A great promise of citizen blogs is that they can cover topics and areas uncovered by or too narrow to warrant the interest of the news staff. If your newspaper, say, has a small sports staff, citizen bloggers who are passionate about minor sports can fill in the gaps, ensuring that sports like trail running and girls' softball get at least some coverage. If your news organization doesn't provide much coverage of pets, consider finding a local veterinarian or animal trainer who might like to start a blog.

    One word of caution, however: Citizen bloggers, because they're usually volunteers, can't be counted on to keep a blog filled with content consistently or for very long. Most news Web sites that have used citizen bloggers report that the blogs tend to be short-lived; starting out strong is common, followed by less-frequent posting, then complete inactivity. Paying citizen bloggers -- even if it's a token amount, or in the form of prizes or "goodies" -- might help to alleviate this problem.


  • Bluffton (S.C.) Today Community Blogs.
  • Blogs (The Lawrence Journal-World, Kansas).
  • The Denver Post Bloghouse.
  • Weblogs.

    5. Newsroom citizen 'transparency' blogs

    A specific type of citizen blog deserves its own category here. It plays on the notion of news organization "transparency," or sharing the inner workings of the newsroom with readers or viewers. This involves inviting a reader or readers to blog with public complaints, criticism, or praise for the news organization's ongoing work. A reader panel can be empowered via a publicly accessible blog to serve as citizen ombudsmen, of a sort, offering public commentary on how the news organization is performing.

    A milder form of this is the editor's blog -- typically written by a paper's top editor and explaining the inner workings of the newsroom and discussing how specific editorial decisions are made -- along with reader comments, so that the editor has a public dialog with his/her blog readers.


  •'s "News Is a Conversation" blog.

    6. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Edited version

    OK, now we're swimming in the deep end. This next step involves establishing a stand-alone citizen-journalism Web site that is separate from the core news brand. It means establishing a news-oriented Web site that is comprised entirely or nearly entirely of contributions from the community.

    Most such sites focus on local news -- very local news. Citizen contributors can submit whatever they want, from an account of a kids' soccer game, to observations from an audience member at last night's city council meeting, to an opinion piece by a state legislator, to a high-school student telling of her prom-night experience. The site's editors monitor and perform a modest degree of editing to submissions, in order to maintain some degree of "editorial integrity" of content placed under the publisher's brand name.

    Photos are also a big appeal of such sites. You'll find citizen-submitted shots of pets, cars, vacations, kids graduating...

    If that sounds like a big mish-mash of not-that-interesting content, you're right. But that doesn't mean this is a bad idea. Rather, it means that editors of such local citizen-journalism sites need to guide community members into making quality submissions -- to educate them about what's worth sharing with their fellow citizens. That can mean recruiting community leaders, event organizers, and just plain interesting people to contribute to the site. It can mean guiding submissions by, for example, promoting an upcoming event and urging that participants take photographs and submit them, and write up their experiences.

    And in this model, the site's editors also perform a line-editing role, ensuring that content is up to at least a minimal level of quality. (Correct spelling, proper grammar, attention paid to potential libel issues.)

    The other imperative with such sites is to create a homepage and section pages that highlight the best of citizen coverage. Since much of user-submitted content can be deadly dull to most of the audience, a page that simply lists everything people submitted by date -- no matter how bad -- can be about as exciting as reading a press-release wire. But if site editors are doing their job well in terms of recruiting and educating citizen journalists, there should be enough compelling content within the submissions pool to populate a homepage that will engage site visitors.

    An advantage of sites like this is that citizens can cover issues and events that local mainstream media ignore. If you as a community member think that your fellow citizens should know about a stop sign that was knocked down and the county government won't fix, then this is an outlet to publicize news that's not big enough to get on the radar screen of the local newspaper or TV news outlets. Citizens likewise have a way to publicize big stories that local media outlets are avoiding. Got a complaint about the local press? Go around them.


  • MyMissourian (Columbia, Mo., student-run site).
  • WestportNow (Westport, Conn., independent site).
  • (Brattleboro, Vt., independent site).
  • Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record YourNews (sub-site of main news Web site).

    7. The stand-alone citizen-journalism site: Unedited version

    This model is identical to No. 6 above, except that citizen submissions are not edited. What people write goes on the site: blemishes, misspellings and all.

    With this model of stand-alone citizen-journalism site, it is important to have safeguards against inappropriate content being posted. Having a site editor review all submissions as soon as possible after they've been automatically published is ideal -- but impractical, of course, since editors do have to sleep and posting by the public is possible 24 hours a day.

    Stand-alone sites
    A more practical model is to include "Report Misconduct" buttons on every citizen-submitted story and photograph. Users click these when they spot something inappropriate, and a message is sent to site editors so someone can take a look, and take action if necessary. Also worth considering is having a script written that automatically takes down an item when, say, at least three people click the misconduct button -- a safeguard that will come in handy in the middle of the night.

    Why would site editors want to keep their hands off and not even fix obvious errors? Well, for one thing, this approach is more in the spirit of citizen journalism -- let them be what they are (amateur writers, community members), rather than try to turn every contributor into a mini-journalist. Make the site more about community and less about "journalism."

    Then there's the legal angle. I'm not a lawyer and I'd urge you to consult one for specific advice, but a citizen-journalism Web site publisher may be on safer legal ground by not being in a position of editing every submission. Should an editor spot a user-submitted article that's potentially libelous (and thus violates the site's terms of service), then of course remove it. But by screening every submission for potential libel before publication, the site will have greater liability should something get through that results in a lawsuit.


  • (U.S. nationwide, with current beta sites in Reston and McLean, Va.).
  • GoSkokie (Skokie, Ill., student-run site).
  • (large network of community citizen-journalism Web sites around the U.S.).
  • NewWest (news site covering the Rocky Mountain region; mostly by professional journalists but with a stand-alone "Citizen Journalism" area).
  • (neighborhood citizen-journalism site for the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.).

    8. Add a print edition

    For this model, take either No. 6 or No. 7 above (stand-alone citizen-journalism Web site, either with edited submissions or a hands-off editing approach) and add a print edition. A number of newspapers have tried this, using a print edition distributed freely once a week as an insert into a traditional daily or weekly paper, or as a stand-alone print product delivered to people's doorsteps and/or delivered to local retailers and placed in news boxes for consumers to pick up.

    Content for these print special editions is typically comprised primarily of the best content submitted to the citizen-journalism Web site. This can be categorized in a similar way as the traditional newspaper: weddings, deaths, business, sports, opinion, people, features, food, etc. Photo features -- especially the best photos from all the people who attended a local event, for example -- can be particularly compelling content for such print editions.

    Print editions
    Most stand-alone citizen-journalism sites, even those that choose not to edit submissions before they go live online, do exercise at least some editing prior to print publication. The print edition will look more credible if misspellings are avoided and proper grammar is used. But even print editors should avoid editing out the flavor of the citizen submissions; keep editing to the bare minimum.

    A print component can help entice "trusted" contributors to sign up for voluntary writing duty: youth and community group leaders, religious leaders, coaches, politicians, etc. Especially in a citizen-journalism initiative's early days, the prospect of a volunteer's writing turning up in a newspaper can be more appealing than writing for a still-obscure Web site.

    For now, at least, such print editions often are seen as the primary revenue source for newspapers venturing into citizen journalism. Typically, advertising rates are significantly lower than in the newspaper itself or on its Web site, so the combined print-online combo citizen-journalism site can be appealing to small businesses that otherwise couldn't afford to advertise with the newspaper.

    However, there is a school of thought that having a print edition as part of a citizen-journalism venture is sort of "retrograde." It adds significant costs that shouldn't be underestimated, and, the argument goes, print can't begin to capture what's most interesting about the citizen-journalism concept because it isn't an interactive, two-way medium like online.


  • MyTown (The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.).
  • Neighbors (The Dallas Morning News, Texas).
  • Northwest Voice (The Bakersfield Californian).
  • YourHub (Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colo.).
  • Bluffton Today (South Carolina; daily print edition, so it fits in this category, but also in No. 9 below).

    9. The hybrid: Pro + citizen journalism

    The next step up the ladder creates a news organization that combines citizen journalism with the work of professionals. South Korean site OhmyNews is the best example of this approach. It has recruited, to date, some 38,000 "citizen reporters," who contribute articles for review by OhmyNews' editorial staff. A small team of professional reporters also create content for the site. Citizen reports account for about 70 percent of the site's content, and pro reporters create the rest, so the emphasis clearly is on the citizen.

    Hybrid sites
    Not everything submitted by the citizen reporters is accepted for publication on OhmyNews. And some of the contributors who submit quality content are paid modest fees for their writing and/or photography. This is a different approach than is taken by most U.S. citizen-journalism sites, which rarely pay for submissions. OhmyNews treats its citizen reporters as though they are journalists (albeit low-paid ones).

    This approach appears to be potentially profitable. OhmyNews, which is five years old, says that it made about US$400,000 in 2004, two-thirds of which from advertising. While it started out as a Korean media venture, the company has created an international edition and recruits citizen journalists from around the world to participate. It's possible that OhmyNews represents a new kind of media organization that will rival traditional "pro-only" news outlets., a South Carolina news Web site that's part of the Morris Communications news empire, also represents a melding of professional journalism and citizen participation. The Web site is dominated by citizen submissions -- mostly in the forms of blogs and photo albums -- and community members talking to each other, along with some staff-produced content. Accompanying the Web site is the daily Bluffton Today print edition (which is why I also listed it in layer No. 8 above), the main newspaper for the small town of Bluffton, population 1,600. The 32-page edition is delivered free to the town's homes. The print edition is comprised of the work of staff journalists, but also includes citizen submissions -- and the intent is to grow citizen content in print over time.

    This site is interesting because the site's creators decided to "turn the traditional community newspaper model on its head," where the citizen-driven Web site drives content to the print edition. It is an example of a small town that has a principal news organization offering up a mix of professional and citizen news coverage. Could this be the future of small-town news?


  • Bluffton Today (South Carolina; it also fits in layer No. 8 above, since it has a print edition).
  • Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record YourNews (this forward-thinking newspaper initiative seems to be heading in the direction of this degree of pro-journalist and community-member integration).

    10. Integrating citizen and pro journalism under one roof

    Now we enter the world of theory, because I've yet to find anyone taking this bold step yet. Imagine, then, a news Web site comprised of reports by professional journalists directly alongside submissions from everyday citizens. This is slightly different than No. 9, above, because on any one page there will be a mix of professionally written (paid) and citizen-submitted (free) content -- labeled appropriately so that the reader knows what he/she is getting -- rather than the more typical walling-off of citizen content as a way of differentiating it from the work of professionals.

    (OhmyNews and Bluffton Today come close to this, and Greensboro's News & Record perhaps is heading in this direction.)

    Here are some examples of how this might look:

    • A "lifestyles" section might have a traditional feature article, while nearby is a report on a society event written by an attendee.
    • A food section might include links to not only a restaurant review by a professional staff critic, but also customer reviews of that and other local eateries. A staff food editor's column might be placed on the same page as recipes submitted by readers.
    • A report by a city hall correspondent might be accompanied by opinion pieces by citizens commenting on the outcome of an issue decided by the city council.

    The key to making this work is the labeling of the respective content. "By Joe Jones, Chronicle staff reporter" and "By Sam Smith, Citizen contributor" makes the difference between the two authors obvious. The former should offer some level of trust that what appears under Jones' byline is professionally reported and credible. Smith's content indeed may by just as good and credible, but the reader must understand that the news organization does not accredit his content in the same way -- and should take care in trusting what's been written.

    It's this vision of citizen journalism complementing and adding to professional journalism that is so compelling -- at least in theory. Few news organizations have the staff manpower to cover everything that their readers are interested in, but by tapping the volunteer (or cheap) resources of the citizenry, a news organization can potentially provide coverage down to the Little League team and church-group level, as well as offer better and more diverse coverage of larger issues by bringing in more voices and perspectives.

    This is the model that perhaps gets closest to what citizens'-media pioneers like Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor espouse: When news becomes a conversation, and not just a lecture. It's professional journalist and community member sharing the online media publishing space, to the benefit of the audience.

    In these early days of citizen journalism -- especially in the U.S. -- publishers seem skittish about this combining of pro and amateur/citizen content. They're more likely to wall off citizen submissions, as though they shouldn't "contaminate" the work of the professionals. I suspect that that attitude will wear off in time, and that this complementary approach will bring professional and citizen closer together -- to the ultimate benefit of the audience.

    Examples: If you know of any news sites employing this approach, please e-mail me.

    11. Wiki journalism: Where the readers are editors

    Finally, in the "way out there" category, comes wiki news. The most well known example is the WikiNews site, a spinoff of the famed Wikipedia public encyclopedia, which allows anyone to write and post a news story, and anyone to edit any story that's been posted. It's an experimental concept operating on the theory that the knowledge and intelligence of the group can produce credible, well-balanced news accounts.

    The jury is still out on whether or not WikiNews will work, but the wiki model does seem to succeed with Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia is now one of the top information sources on the Web, and its entries are, for the most part, accurate and useful. WikiNews, at this writing, is a less compelling service.

    Traditional news organizations are unlikely to copy WikiNews, but the wiki concept might be useful to them in certain situations. For example, an obituary might work as a wiki. A family member might write the initial article, then friends and family add remembrances, photos, etc. The big worry that editors have about wikis is that people will use it inappropriately, and while that's certainly possible, the experience at Wikipedia would seem to indicate that that's unlikely. In the case of an obituary, a family member likely would monitor what people add, removing anything inappropriate.

    News Web sites might better experiment with information rather than news. A city guide that's part of a news Web site, for instance, could benefit from the public being allowed to build on it and improve it over time., a network of micro-local news citizen-journalism Web sites, utilizes the wiki concept in its Community Guides sections.

    Going this far with citizen journalism will take some guts -- and a change in thinking. It means moving far down the continuum of journalist-reader interaction, allowing an unprecedented loss of control of the editorial product.


  • WikiNews.
  • Community Guide (small component of Web site).