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Student summer blog: How students can get involved on citizen journalism platforms

September 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Training

Images by lirneasia on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Danny Roberts is a sports journalism student at Leeds Trinity University College and tweets from @DannyRoberts74.

We live in a very fast paced, evolving world. Technology becomes more advanced by the second and is ours to use to our advantage, especially as journalists. Gone are the days were you must spend years working to get a break that would see your work published. In today’s world you can have your story seen by thousands of people in just a few minutes.

Citizen journalism has fast become a huge player in the media world. As a student journalist, you should have a Twitter account, a Facebook account and a blog already, and if you are looking for somewhere to publish your work even further, there are many sites that carry citizen journalism reporting as well as applications that allow you to share pictures and stream video live.

One of the most famous events which demonstrated the importance of citizen journalism was the plane crash in the Hudson River in 2009. Only four minutes after this happened, a picture and the tweet “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson riv [sic] in manhattan” were published online. It would take news crews a lot longer to get to the scene, set-up and report on.

Entrepreneur, Adam Baker, came up with the idea for citizen journalism website Blottr.com, after seeing the 9/11 attacks unfold on TV. He believes that people should have a place to publish their work and show it off to thousands of people.

Ravin Sampat, editor of Blottr.com, said citizen journalists fall into many categories.

There are those that are at the scene (not journalists) of an event who can be labelled citizen reporters because they captured a photo or video, and can help journalists collaborate on a story. Then there are those individuals who like being part of the newsgathering process, i.e. amateur reporters, who play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and collaborating on news. They play a vital role in the ongoing drama that is a breaking news situation.

Ravin then added that which he feels it is not fair to look for something specific in a citizen journalist, there are three important factors:

1. Facts and sticking to what you observe

2. Never altering multimedia content like photos and video to depict a different version of events

3. Avoiding hearsay

Blottr still likes to see traditional writing skills being put to use in its pieces but knows that not everybody on the site enjoys writing:

Quality of writing is very important especially if you want people to read your work. This rule applies to those working in the mainstream media as well and is no different for citizen journalists. Some citizen journalists don’t like writing but have a lot to contribute to a story using things like video and pictures captured.

Being part of a citizen journalism site gives students a platform to show off their talents to potential employers as well as gaining news writing experience. With sites like Blottr.com you can also collaborate with others to make the perfect, verified, story. It also allows people to share news without having to write and describe the scene and what happened:

Being a citizen journalism news site, you can understand we get different types of content on a daily basis, from protests in Chicago, to the growing conflict in Syria, to something as simple as people snapping photos of Olympic moments. Over the last year we’ve found that the content that picks up the most traction is the content that’s new, fresh, and photo and video heavy. When there is a breaking news story that we have first, we get lots of traction, and as the story develops, and the mainstream media outlets start getting more information, we get even more traction for having broken that story first.

The most views are usually on pictures and videos, however that doesn’t mean that writing or opinion is rejected as they all have their place. Sampat said that “amateur footage is unique in that it’s raw, unedited”, and in some cases can be more powerful on its own than as part of a news package. But he added that “depending on the topic, each type of content is unique it its own way”.

One platform that allows citizens to stream video live from a webcam or smartphone is Bambuser. This would allow student journalists to have another outlet for their work if they wanted to go into broadcast media in the future and are looking for experience. Then there is Flickr, that allows the sharing of photos, along with other platforms such as Instagram. They are examples of other useful outlets for students that want to get their multimedia work out there, and is ideal for people that want to primarily work as a photographer or broadcaster.

To conclude, citizen journalism is fast becoming an integral part of the media and reporting world. People use social networks every day without possibly realising that what they are posting can be seen and interpreted by millions of people. So if you have the news and just need a platform to share it there are clearly many ways to do so in today’s world.

Useful sites and apps for citizen journalists:

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Digital First Media’s first mobile community newsroom takes to the road

July 30th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Training

Digital First Media has launched the first of its new “mobile community media labs”, one of a number of community news projects to be launched by titles within the company.

Journalism.co.uk reported last month about the four new mobile labs, including “pop-up newsrooms”, to be introduced. They are being run by the San Jose Mercury News, the St Paul Pioneer Press, the York Daily Record and the New Haven Register.

The first, TCRover, was launched on Friday by St Paul Pioneer Press, described in a press release as “a modified Ford Transit Connect wrapped with TwinCities.com and Pioneer Press branding” and “outfitted with WiFi, a generator, awning, chairs and a pull-down projection screen”.

Digital First Media’s Steve Buttry said in the release:

The Twin Cities are the perfect location for a mobile community newsroom. This is a sprawling metro area with two hubs, dozens of widely varying suburban communities and several shared interests, such as the sports teams.

With the TCRover, the TwinCities.com staff will be able to engage people where they live and work.

Digital First Media travelling in the van will teach the community skills such as “how to blog, how to interact with our site, even how to do research on topics that interest them”, the release adds.

The adventures of the mobile community newsrooms can be followed on Twitter @TCRover.

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Bambuser offers free premium accounts to citizen journalists

Bambuser, the live-streaming smartphone app, has announced it will be offering its premium service for free to citizen journalists and activists.

Their premium usage tier usually starts at €99 per month and can cost up to €499 per month. The new premium for citizen journalists will offer unlimited hours of streaming, unlimited storage and an ad-free player. There is also an option to allow Associated Press to make footage available to their media outlets.

Posting on their blog, they said:

At Bambuser we truly believe in free speech and democracy. Over the past years we’ve seen more and more activists and citizen journalists use Bambuser to broadcast real-time information about activities and events when they happen. We think that user generated content broadens the overall picture of what’s actually going on, and is needed to complement professional news reporting.

When traditional media has little or no possibilities to have journalists on site, user generated live streams are essential.

Speaking to The Next Web, Bambuser’s executive chairman Hans Eriksson explained the decision:

We don’t believe ads combined with protests, demonstrations and war-like situations are proper. We know ads are also an issue for the broadcaster as he/she wants the cleanest possible video out. To us, these people are important users and if we can help them to a better total experience in what they’re doing we’re very satisfied.

Bambuser has been used heavily by citizen journalists and activists around the world and came to prominence during the Arab Spring last year. Since then it has been used to monitor the parliamentary elections in Egypt and cover the Occupy Wall Street movement. After footage from the violence in Homs was used by broadcasters around the world the Syrian government blocked the service on its 3G mobile networks.

Citizen journalists and activists can apply for the premium account by emailing info@bambuser.com with their username and a brief description of what they do.

Bambuser is a previous Journalism.co.uk app of the week.

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Q&A with hyperlocal site boasting 15,000 newsletter subscribers

ChiswickW4.com, which claimed 50,000 unique visitors during January, has just gained it’s 15,000th email newsletter signup.

Launched by the Neighbour Net group in 2000 to cover the W4 postcode area of London, Neighbour Net now boasts a portfolio of nine other hyperlocal sites in London, including EalingToday.co.uk and PutneySW15.com.

One of Neighbour Net’s directors, Sean Kelly, spoke to Journalism.co.uk about the site’s model.

Who’s behind the operation of the website? What inspired you to set up a hyperlocal site?

The site was set up by Tony Steele and Sean Kelly who both live in the Chiswick area. The aim was to fill the gap in local news provision initially in Chiswick and then extend the concept out to other areas.

Are your articles written by local contributors or do you have a dedicated team?

We have a dedicated editor for each site and a significant number of other local contributors in each area. The contributions tend to be reviews – restaurants, concerts, theatre. There is also a central office resource for content production which can write stories when the editor is away.

Is anyone employed to work full-time on the site?

Yes, we have four full-time staff but that includes sales and back office. The aim on ChiswickW4.com is to be able to respond 24/7 to breaking news.

Your site has a number of subtle advertisements – could you tell us a little about your business model?

Nearly all our customers are small local businesses and they either have advertising packages which include banner display and newsletter inclusion or listings in our directories.

We also like to be supportive of local independent businesses and like to write positive stories about them. Obviously we are more inclined to cover items about our clients but often feature non-clients as well.

Do you have a social media strategy? If so, what social networks do you use and how do you use them?

We put all our news content out on Twitter and Facebook as well as some aggregated feeds with local offers, events, jobs and traffic reports. The main use for us of social media is sourcing stories rather than broadcasting. It is particularly powerful for breaking news.

We try and follow as many people as possible who live in the area to ensure that if something is kicking off locally we hear about it quickly.

Why did you go down the newsletter route, rather than taking a different approach?

Probably because in 2000 there weren’t really many alternatives but e-mail newsletters have proven to be the most effective broadcast method ever since.

On a proportional basis they still deliver the highest level of response both for advertisers and in terms of click through to news items.

How does your traffic for the Chiswick site compare with the rest of Neighbour Net’s sites?

It makes up around 50 per cent of group total over the course of a typical month. On exceptional days sites like PutneySW15.com and EalingToday.co.uk can exceed Chiswick’s traffic.

Do you have any plans to roll out new features on the sites?

The plan is to increase the amount of user contributed content further although the editor will remain central to the story production process.

Are you planning to expand? If so, where to?

We normally expand contiguously so that people in the area may be familiar with the site and we can cross-sell to existing clients as well as provide editorial support from neighbouring sites.

The most important determinant of where we launch is finding a suitably high quality editor. The plan is to recruit more actively once the content management system is up and running.

ChiswickW4.com can be found on Twitter as @ChiswickW4.

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Citizen journalism: Street Photographer of the Year announced

Kheoh Yee Wai, winner of the CJET Street Photographer of the Year, poses with his photo

The winner of the Citizen Journalism Education Trust (CJET)’s Street Photographer of the Year was announced yesterday.

In a release, Kheoh Yee Wai, 23, (pictured above) described his winning photograph:

The mum and her child were strolling on the streets of a neighbourhood in Leeds, passing by a family that was having a barbecue at that time. They had a huge dog that kept jumping-up in excitement.

That was when I knew I had to stop and capture a candid street photograph.

To qualify for the prize, entries had to be taken on a mobile phone by an amateur photographer or citizen journalist.

Judges included award-winning photographer and former Guardian picture editor, Eamonn McCabe and Allyce Hibbert picture editor for Time Out.

Wei, was awarded a camcorder. Runners-up Pete Smith and Daniel Holland received framed prints of their photographs.

All 12 shortlisted photographs are being exhibited at the London College of Communication until Thursday, 15 March. More information is available on the LCC news and events blog.

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Students relaunch the Cardiffian to fill gap left by Guardian Cardiff closure

Trainee newspaper journalists from Cardiff School of Journalism have relaunched the Cardiffian, a hyperlocal.

One of those involved, Tom Rouse, explains how it is run.

The news site is staffed by trainee newspaper journalists at Cardiff School of Journalism. With 29 reporters, each assigned their own patch, we are able to cover a large part of Cardiff at a ward level and cover a depth and breadth of stories which engage with communities on their own level.

The site was originally set up for last year’s students, so our focus this year has been reviving a site which has lain dormant since April and rebuilding ties with local community groups.  This background means we have not had to build a readership from scratch, but has presented a different challenge in ensuring we offer something different from what is already out there.

Fundamentally, the Cardiffian is a news site and a chance for us to put our work in a real world setting.  The majority of our second term is dominated by our first efforts as journalists in sourcing stories and producing a paper. As this paper is produced as a training exercise it allows us to make mistakes in a safe environment. Putting our work up on the Cardiffian builds upon this by giving us an invaluable opportunity to gain feedback from readers about the stories we’re writing and understand what works when presented to an audience and what doesn’t.

But, we are hoping to make the site far more than just another source of news in Cardiff. We want to fill the niche in the local online community which was left vacant by the demise of Guardian Cardiff and act as a hub for a variety of content, not just our own.

This means a large part of our strategy revolves around making ourselves useful to communities and encouraging them to engage with the site, whether that means submitting their events to our listings page or writing a guest blog on an issue they feel passionately about. We are hoping to build a genuine two-way relationship with our readers,

Glyn Mottershead, lecturer in digital journalism at Cardiff University, said:

The key point of the site is to help our students learn about the ways in which the industry is changing, to understand content and community strategies and build a living portfolio of work.

It is also an opportunity for them to engage with groups in Cardiff and try and help them get their message out.

The first year was very much a news site, which worked well in its run and received good feedback. This year is more about involving members of the community in the site and trying to understand and support an online community that is interested in what is happening in the city around them.

The site is also a bit more of a lab than other parts of the course and gives the students the opportunity to explore ideas that may be of interest to the community and suggest changes to platforms and strategies based on genuine feedback from them.

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Sarah Hartley to join Talk About Local as interim managing director

December 9th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Journalism

Sarah Hartley, a community strategist for the Guardian Media Group and part of the team behind its online noticeboard n0tice, is to join community media project Talk About Local as its interim managing director next year, according to an announcement on the site.

The post adds that she will continue to head “the community strategy for n0tice.com” but will also help with “exciting new initiatives in the pipeline” for Talk About Local, which was set up by William Perrin.

In a quote Hartley said:

I am delighted to be starting 2012 tackling some new challenges working alongside the talented and dedicated team at TAL.

We have some exciting new initiatives in the pipeline, helping people find their online voice for communities, as well as continuing to be active in supporting and promoting the many blogs and websites we are already involved with.

Read more here.

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CNN launches new iReport site

CNN this week unveiled its new iReport site which, according to a blog post about the changes, will offer greater personalisation, an enhanced community through “groups” and a “favourite button”.

iReport is CNN’s platform for user-generated content, where non-journalists submit video stories, the best of which are broadcast on the news channel.

The update comes five years after iReport was launched and, according to CNN’s post, now has a community of “nearly a million people”.

Last month at news:rewired – connected journalism, CNN digital producer Dominique van Heerden shared some interesting statistics on iReport, such as that CNN had published 912,000 iReports since its launch, with 15,000 iReports published on average every month and 2.4 million unique users in June 2011.

In an article on the new version iReport, lostremote’s Natan Edelsburg said the aim was “to create the largest ‘social network for news,’ according to Lila King, participation director at CNN”.

Read lostremote’s report here.

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Ariel: BBC launches 2012 local reporter scheme

The BBC this week launched its 2012 Community Reporters scheme, according to an article by in-house magazine Ariel, which will see the trainees ultimately get the chance to pitch an idea to BBC London.

According to the report the 18 trainees include “a minicab driver from Brick Lane, an artist from Hackney and a Marylebone youth worker”.

The new recruits, who are actively involved in their communities and have no paid broadcasting experience or qualifications, will get six days of advice from experts across the BBC, including the College of Production, CoJo and journalists at BBC London.

They will then pitch their ideas to the BBC London editorial team, who will choose which ones to develop for broadcast in a week of production in December.

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New Guardian community platform n0tice invites more users

October 26th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Hyperlocal


n0tice, the Guardian’s latest community project, has today opened to more users.

The platform is an online version of a village noticeboard, allowing people to post and find community news and classified ads. It is location-based, enabling searches and delivering news related to any location worldwide.

Guardian News & Media plans to make money out of the site, which was inspired by a hack day, by charging for featured ads and selling the white-labelled technology to companies wanting to use n0tice for commercial purposes.

The platform has a read API, a self-serve white label version and feed importing meaning that it can be adapted for hyperlocals and “could potentially work just as well for hyperlocal community bloggers in northern England as it could for cricket fans in India or birdwatching groups in Oregon”, Sarah Hartley, community strategist at GMG and one of a team of three working on the project told Journalism.co.uk.

Matt McAlister, director of digital strategy at the Guardian, has announced the latest developments in a blog post:

The release today is a big one for us. We’ve added the ability to create your own n0ticeboard.

He goes on to say:

If we can make citizen journalism possible in more contexts for more communities then I think we will have done a good thing. If we can also make citizen journalism a financially sustainable activity then we will have done a great thing.

As we go along we are increasingly unsure of what happens next. Participants are starting to determine what we do more and more. So, if you want this platform to do something, please get in early and share your thoughts with us.

The platform is in still private beta so invite-only, but Journalism.co.uk has 10 invites. You can try to claim a n0tice invite by clicking here.

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