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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with their username and a brief description of what they do.
Operating systems: Apple (iPhone 3GS+, iPod touch, iPad2+). An Android version is in the pipeline.
Release: The app will launch in Lebanon this month, and will be available in the UK within two months.
What is it and how is it of use to journalists? Inspired by the Arab Spring, Signal is an app that assists and encourages citizen journalism by allowing users to create “mini stories” by capturing real-world events using cameras and geolocation.
The user community vote for these mini-stories to derive the top ones. The final result is an app that shows you the top stories of any country of the world, created and voted by the users in a decentralised, crowdsourced manner.
At the moment, content creation is limited to photographs, but creator Mark Malkoun will be adding video in a future release. An Android version of the app is also in the pipeline.
Malkoun, a Lebanese entrepreneur, told Journalism.co.uk:
Signal will provide journalists with an image-rich, organised platform that will give them new ideas and stories.
Because the mini stories are filtered by importance using votes, it will help journalists understand which stories are interesting to readers prior to writing an article.
Communication tools will be available in order to verify the story.
But what about the citizen journalists who have been killed before and since Colvin and Ochlik?
How many people armed with a camera lens or mobile phone to bring the world images from Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere have been killed?
In this podcast Journalism.co.uk technology correspondent Sarah Marshall speaks to Frank Smyth, executive director of private firm Global Journalist Security and part-time senior advisor for journalist security for the Committee to Protect Journalists, about the dangers and the risks being taken by citizen journalists.
The podcast also hears from Haret Alfasi, a Libyan raised in the UK who runs LibyaFeb17.com, a site he used to curate and translate citizen journalist reports from Libya; Khalil Ghorbal, co-founder of Le PaCTE Tunisien and one of the project leaders of Speak Out Tunisia, which offers training for citizen journalists in Tunisia; and Omar Hamilton, an activist and filmmaker and co-founder of Egyptian citizen journalist collective Mosireen.
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.
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”.
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.
Dutch freelance journalist Gemma van der Kamp spent her summer travelling across Europe meeting journalists and “non-journalistic news producers” as part of a Summer Reporter project run by De Nieuwe Reporter (DNR). She shares her seven tips for backpack reporting.
Gemma's Summer Reporter kit
1. Travel third class or buy a bicycle. In the midst of curious locals who wonder what you are doing, you quickly get to know the country. Working on hard wooden benches in shaky trains might be uncomfortable; it is much more fun than feeling lonely in fancy single first class coupés. Riding a bicycle is even better.
2. If you work across Europe and travel by public transport, use the convenient journey planner from the German Railway Network . This online tool maps out how best to travel from the North of Denmark across Moldavia to Southern Italy and is strikingly accurate.
3. Sell your work internationally. If you work internationally and want your work translated in other languages or need video subtitles, have a look at Straker Translation. This online translation company has developed its own machine translation model, though uses human editors to make sure the translation is accurate.
4. Be patient. Adapt your concept of time and distance. An hour in the UK is equal to ten minutes in India. Agreeing on meeting up at 4pm, might turn out to become 8pm in some countries. A 60km trip that takes an hour in the UK can last a day in Ukraine. Take these factors into account when agreeing on deadlines for your work.
5. Pop up and be nosy-poky. To quickly find your way in a new country and to find good stories, get away from the computer and go out to talk to people. Ask people where the media outlets are based and where local journalists gather for drinks. Local journalists usually have a wide network and can easily introduce you to potentially interesting sources. Don’t put too much energy in trying to arrange meetings before your arrival. Simply pop up by knocking on doors.
6. Dare to be unprepared. If you have no idea whether you really have secured an interview, don’t worry. Dare to take the risk to travel for hours to the agreed meeting place, because you unconsciously keep your eyes open for a possible alternative story. The best stories often are the result of chance encounters.
7. If you live on a shoe string, try to spend nights at other people’s couches via the home stay network couchsurfing. It is the ideal way to get to know locals and it could open doors to a more permanent place to stay. When I lived in New Delhi, one couchsurf night resulted in a three months’ stay for a minute rent.
Meporter is a location-based iPhone app for reporting local news by sharing geolocated text, photos and videos.
It is just three weeks old and this week is launching a social media and advertising campaign to gather the critical mass of reporters – or Meporters, as they are known – needed to make the start-up a success.
Meporter was launched at TechCrunch‘s Disrupt 2011, a technology competition in New York, after being chosen as one of the 26 companies, out of 1,000 applicants, to be showcased.
Since then Meporter has set up in several countries, including the UK, China, Australia, Japan, Spain, Italy as well as the US, according to CEO and founder Andy Leff.
The kind of stories being reported are not just breaking news events but restaurant, theatre, festival and art reviews.
A quick check for Meporter reports for London reveal “fat lady gets arrested” in Hackney, “roadworks” in Lewisham and “sun shining in Wanstead”.
It is obvious what is needed now is an increase in the number news stories filed, plus if it is used for news gathering, journalists need to know how to verify reports coming in.
When he spoke to Journalism.co.uk Leff said he had not checked Meporter iPhone app downloads for a few days but said the number was “in the tens of thousands”.
So, how can it be used by journalists? So-called citizen journalists can report news and if enough local reporters sign up in an area, it can be used as a news gathering tool as Leff explained:
We’re actually in discussion with number of local publishers, regional publishers, national publishers and international publishers about incorporating Meporter into the news-gathering programmes.
We’ve got interest from a lot of newspapers here in the US, television broadcast companies and we have been contacted by some media publications in Germany to see how they can integrate Meporter.
What they’re saying is that they don’t have the resources or the manpower to get all the news in their local areas but they’re always having people ringing them on the phone saying “nobody’s covering the high school football game”.
News outlets are losing readers because they can’t cover everything.
That will no doubt resonate with local news organisations in the UK and the idea that they can crowdsource local news, including photos and videos, vet the incoming stories, verify them and publish is likely to be appealing.
But for this to work it will require huge take-up and the addition of an Android app, which, along with a BlackBerry app, is due to be launched soon.
Leff is now focussing on spending money to gain that critical mass.
The initial $300,000 cost of launch he gathered by “scrounging through my wallet, couch cushions, begging family and friends” and is now in further talks with investors.
A social media and advertising campaign called the Million Man Launch will see cash give-aways of $27,000 with thousands of dollars being rewarded when milestones of active users are reached.
Meporters are also being incentivised through a badge system, similar to that used by Foursquare, with users able to trade in badges for prizes gathered through sponsorship deals.
The start-up has a long way to go. According to the geolocated app there are just three Meporters in Brighton and between 20 and 30 in London. However, this is an increase from no Meporters in either city a fortnight ago.
Meporter has the potential to reopen a debate on citizen journalism. But what Meporter offers is not that far removed from how local newspapers have always used village reporters to crowdsource and gather local stories. What has changed is the reporting method and thus the demographic of the reporters.