Shield law lunacy

In a world where journalism is in the danger of turning into a hobby, isn't it ironic that the US looks set to get a shield law that excludes non-salaried journalists from protection?

I've been following the slow progress of this potential new law for some time now, and I'm struck by how at odds its definition of who should be allowed to protect their sources is with the changing media landscape. I've previously bemoaned that it will offer no protection for the Dr Stockmanns of this world, but with the very nature of journalism and who committs valuable acts of journalism so much in flux, limiting the scope of this law to only protect salaried journalists seems very strange.

For one, bloggers, and outfits like Huffington Post, are increasingly providing valuable journalism, analysis and even investigations. Come to think of it, that has already been the case for years now, and I recently concluded in an article on blogging the crash (for a new book on the financial crash and the crisis in journalism) that some bloggers even covered the events leading up to the credit crisis better than traditional media.

This blog post over at Mediashift provides a good argument for why bloggers and citizen journalists deserve a shield law. But with the gloomy state of media finances these days, some are even predicting a future where (freelance) journalists will be forced to work for free. I'm not quite that pessimistic, but there is an uncomfortable grain of thruth or two in Charlie Beckett's post on Celibates, Priests or Toffs? The Future of Freelance.


Wikileaks, Kaupthing and the one per cent rule

Crowdsourcing is fascinating business. After Wikileaks recently published top secret information about loans made by Icelandic bank Kaupthing just before the country's economy went belly-up, Informationen.dk interviewed one of Wikileaks' founders, Daniel Schmitt.

It's an interesting interview, worth reading in full (use Google translate if Danish is Greek to you), but I was especially taken by this part:

"The question is if people would like to be James Bond, or if they're happy just watching him on TV. People would like to read news, they sometimes even get excited about what they read, but very often they don't bother readig the documentation. As a result, we are mostly dependent on big media writing about it before people can be bothered reading the documentation." (my translation).

For those familiar with the once per cent rule, this is hardly all that suprising, but in the larger scheme of things I found it worth noting. Not at least for those who are despondent about the future of journalism (where there's demand, a need to me met, there's a market, right?).


Using social media to change the world

Here's something which, despite all the current doom and gloom, makes me both hopeful for the future of the world at large and despondent about my own industry (and if you'd rather focus on the former, feel free to jump past my chronology of frustration:-) )

A chronology of frustration:
Mainstream media discovers Twitter and moves en masse there. Incidentally, politicians discover Twitter about the same time and follow suite. "All of a sudden" everyone that is someone is talking about Twitter, hence media commentators are ordered to write about it and conclude - surprise, surprise - it's the social network of the elites.

Now, this secenario is taken from Norway, where journalists and politicians have really only discovered Twitter's potential over the last few months. Since I do my share of talking about why journalists should be on Twitter, and how they can use it in their work, I'm hardly going to complain that a much larger contingent of Norway's hacks have finally started using the microblogging site, but the scenario in the above paragraph is a potent reminder that our understanding of social media is defined by how we use it.

It's not the technology... As a result, our arguments about what social media is often become circular, and categorisations such as "it's the network of the elites" or "it's just people sharing trivia" will often reveal more about how people making those statements use or don't use Twitter than about the site itself. I am, of course, fully aware that sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have different demographics, but, at the end of the day, it's neither the technology, nor the individual social media brand as such I find interesting: it's what it enables us to do.

And since commentators, in Norway and elsewhere, have been so busy analysing what they and/or their colleagues talk about on Twitter lately, let's instead look at a compelling way to use the site to raise awareness of a social issue. I've been followingMark Horvath for a few weeks now, after a shout out from Tim O'Reilly alerted me to his Twitter profile:

Giving a voice to the voiceless
"Mark Horvath was a top TV executive in Hollywood and then lost it all. Out of work and with a home going into foreclosure, Horvath quickly became homeless. With no income or a roof over his head, Horvath still had to do something. So he started Invisiblepeople.tv, a personal first account video blog designed to give homelessness a face and voice," Mashable wrote in March.

Or to use his own words from 1 April this year: "Fifteen years ago I was a TV executive. Fourteen years ago I ended up homeless on Hollywood Blvd. I now am 14 years sober and am rebuilding my life but homelessness is once again a very real possibility. I lost my job in St Louis over a year ago. I took a job here in Los Angeles, moved here, and was laid off. I lost my house to foreclosure last week. With $45, a small camera and a laptop I started Invisiblepeople.tv, a homeless awareness vlog. I had to do something.

"Every week I take a few minutes to get to know a different person without a home. I learn how they survive, how they came to find themselves homeless, and who they call friends. I ask them about their biggest wishes, their greatest hardships and their plans for the future.

"Then, I introduce them to the world via social media. My video blog is a testament of the character and strength of people living on America’s streets. It gives them a voice and a chance to tell their story and become more than a coat sleeping on a park bench. To get the word out about my vblog, I began using twitter ..." (full post here, follow Horvath at @hardlynormal ).

Now, you may fault me, of course, for citing a former TV exec as an example, but his forceful example of being 'the change he wants to see in the world' somehow gives me more faith that we will find our way through the current crisis - and doing what he does while facing homelessness and personal ruin is truly something...

Here's video clip from The Berkman Centre, about The New Change Makers which is also well-worth checking out (via Paul Bradshaw on Twitter)


What I've been reading and pondering of late

Obviously, this is not a complete list. Usually I just save my favourite links to delicious, but, since this blog revolves around the many facets of how the communcations industry is changing, here's a few really interesting links to chew on:

Eirikso: "Free, but not that free…" Eirik Solheim's contribution to the blograce leading up to Wednesday's Media Evolution 2009 where they're dicussing Chris Anderson's thought on the economics of free.

Mediainfluencer: "Brand as identity and branding as behaviour",
excellent as always from Adriana on branding and its role in business strategy. "..the bad news for the branding folks is that messages and projections are not what they used to be. The good news is that a company can define its identity and behave according to who they want to be. That sounds like a good trade-off to me."

Richard Burton: Is Fleet Street a Dead End or the New Super Highway? The former editor of the Daily Telegraph online, now managing editor of The JC, on the challenges of getting the Telegraph to embrace the online mindset and opportunities, and on the media future. Richard warned me this was a transcript and as such not entirely accurate, but that the general gist was correct. It does make for fascinating reading (I may still find time to post some of my thoughts on it later).

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
Not so much a link to ponder perhaps, but still an interesting development: Reporters Without Borders has published a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents (pdf, 81 p.), intended for citizen reporters in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. According to Gisle Hannemyr, it provides some rudimentary technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and how to get around certain types of censorship.


Journalists ignore the social web at their peril: here's how to fix it (Oslo, 25/10)

No, I'm not leading up to rant, the time for that is passed, rather I'm going to invite bloggers, journalists - and everyone interested - to share in whatever competitive advantage I get from tapping into the social web

Better still, I've put together a seminar on using the social web for Saturday, together with a few other partners. The seminar is open to everyone (registration and program here, more background here, in Norwegian. This is a non-profit event, but we've had to take a small participation fee, 250 NOK to cover our costs. The fee includes lunch, coffee and, of course, wi-fi). Keynote speakers are:

Colin Meek, who'll tell us how to  'Get the most out of web 2.0 and web 3.0 tools for in-depth and investigative research'


ColinMeek


HeidiNLunde


and Heidi Nordby Lunde (aka Vampus) who'll give us an insight into mainstream media's weird and wonderful attempts - some successful, some not - to enlist readers to help them report on events, under the banner "Citizen journalism is dead! Long live Citizen journalism!"

I'll kick off the seminar with a talk on how I benefit from using the social web, or "the virtual pub", as a journalist and blogger, giving an introduction to how the web's distributed conversations can be used for research purposes, to increase your audience and improve your reputation (yes, this is just to set the scene, an introduction to using the social web). However, we've also been so lucky as to get someone much more technically advanced than me to share of his expertise, namely Colin Meek, who's worked on investigative and in-depth research projects for over 15 years as a journalist and policy analyst

"Web 2.0 and web 3.0 resources shift internet research to another level. In many ways the future of the internet is through 'networking'and 'semantic' technology. Using web 2.0 and web 3.0 isn't just about getting better results more quickly. If you invest a little time you can harness these powerful new search tools to more accurately follow trends and key words, breaking news, and find new ways to monitor your beats through 'networks' of other users," Colin says.

Now, the Norwegians among you will probably know that Heidi, voted Norway's best political blogger for her personal blog, is the citizen journalism editor at ABC Nyheter, the first commercial news site in Norway to feature a mix of citizen- and traditional journalism. Her talk will look at how mainstream media's efforts to enlist readers and attract so-called user generated content really went.

We conclude the seminar with a debate on whether there are benefits to be had for mainstream media from engaging in conversations on platforms other than their own - such as on the sites of their competitors, on blogs or social networking sites - or if it's just a waste of journalists' precious time. Helge Ögrim, editor-in-chief of Journalisten.no, and blogger George Gooding kick off this debate with short intros, but we'll run this session more as an "un-conference" than a panel debate, as we expect a good mix of journalists, bloggers, editors, citizen-journalists, online developers etc with strong opinions in the audience.

Now, I say "Journalists ignore the social web at their peril" in the headline simply because, armed with a blog, someone who knows how to harness the social web can easily out compete journalists at their own game. I've optimistically hired a big venue, so I don't really think room will be an issue, but it would be great to know if you're planning to show up so we can order enough coffee, food etc. Time and place: Saturday 25/10, 10am to 4pm, Håndverkeren, Oslo, more info (in Norwegian) here.

Follow the seminar on twitter: #socialweb , technorati tag: swOslo


Trends: Citizen journalism, or how to get your readers to do more of your reporting

Some see it as cheap or free labour lowering the standards of journalism; others as a vital tool to reengage a disengaged audience, levelling the playing field in the process.

Citizen journalism may have been a bit off the mainstream radar in Norway's online media town in 2007. Or perhaps other news sites were just watching and waiting to see how ABC Nyheter, who became the first Norwegian commercial news site to nurture citizen journalism as part of its site , fared. Perhaps they were even silently cooking together their own plans.

Opinion or news?
ABC Nyheter's citizen section turned into a lively hub with many diverse voices and perspectives, some covering parts of the world or stories completely off the radar of mainstream media, such as elections in Albania or Chile. But overall, the site found that most of the articles submitted in the citizen journalism section was opinion rather than reporting, and even when given the option to file submissions either as a 'citizen article' or 'opinion piece', people chose the former while submitting the latter. As a result of this, ABC Nyheter is currently looking at new forms of editorial control and incentives they hope will deliver more actual 'citizen reporting' in addition to 'citizen opinion'.

A local notice board?
At the back end of 2007, Edda Media, Mecom's Norwegian branch, soft-launched its 'citizen journalism project', or 'the readers' newspaper' as the company often refers to it. It may even be misleading to apply the term 'citizen journalism' to this portal, meant to feature as a subsite to local and regional news sites, where readers are encouraged to share pictures and stories from the local area with other readers.

So far, keeping in mind that very little has been done on the marketing side, these portals have mostly attracted birthday greetings, pictures and notices from local event organisers. This prompted one of Journalisten's readers (I believe we were the first national news site to write about this project) to question if this was not more of a local notice board than a journalistic project, and, as such, just another clever way for a media company to make do with fewer journalists.

I posed this question to the online editor of Fredrikstads Blad, one of the newspapers trying out this solution, but he vehemently denied this and said this was just "one of many services on our site, meant to be a supplement, an additional service for our readers, not a substitute for journalism," and that he felt it added value to the news site overall.

Reader testing
The concept was launched while still in a beta-version, and to my knowledge it's still in beta, to get reader feedback while perfecting the portal. Among the early testers of the portal and its functionalities were regional newspapers Budstikka (where Edda is a minority shareholder), Drammens Tidende and Fredrikstads Blad, but the plan is to roll this out to all Edda newspapers eventually (Edda Media is mainly comprised of regional and local newspapers).

In the future, when all the testing is finished, the newspapers taking part in the pilot project hope their readers will upload reports from local sports events, interviews in text or video with local champions etc, that can also be used in the news section of the news sites, either as stand-alone features, or as part of a news story.

Others
Origo, is a similar concept, which I've seen used by one or two newspapers associated with regional and local newspaper chain A-pressen, but I must admit I don't know a lot about this portal.

iNorden is another child of 2007. It's a completely non-commercial citizen journalism project, mostly written by bloggers, aiming to become pan-Nordic. Read more about the venture here.

For more background on the companies I mention in this post, check out this overview.


New Nordic Citizen Journalism Initiative

Bloggers and journalists unite to set up Scandinavian citizen journalism portal (via Undercurrent)

In the absence of a media corporation with the foresight to utilise the fabulous opportunities online to create a cross-regional Scandinavian media site, after all the regions' languages are more similar than they are different, a group of concerned bloggers and journalists have launched an impressive new citizen journalism initiative at iNorden.org. According to the founders it's "an attempt at settings new standards for civic journalism in our neck of the woods."

From INorden:

Svensken_norsken_dansken1

First We Take Scandinavia, Then…
People around the world have the darnedest conceptions of the Nordic countries. Quite a few seem to consider Stockholm the capital of Norway and Trondheim a Danish village — and honestly; they could’ve done worse. After all, indeed Stockholm once was Norway’s capital, as was Copenhagen. Sweden’s, Denmark’s and Norway’s history respectively, have been entwined, or rather; entangled for centuries. But let’s not forget Sweden’s colonisation of Finland, as well Danish rule on Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands — Finland’s supremacy on Aaland not withstanding.

You would expect these countries to have common arenas aplenty, at least on the Internet, which after all is an ideal channel for international dialogue. Alas, that hasn’t been the case, until now, that is. iNorden is an ambitious project, no doubts there. Even though an arena such as this would normally be initiated by the authorities or a sizeable media corporation, iNorden was founded by a group of concerned bloggers and journalists, who, like so many others recognised the absence of a Nordic common ground on the Internet — or anywhere, for that matter.

Inviteen1

Here's how to contribute


Southern California fires coverage shows potential of internet facilitated reporting

With every new major disaster these days, we see evidence that mainstream media finally is waking up to the power of internet facilitated reporting: experimenting with Google Maps, You Tube, Twitter, Flickr, Technorati, Facebook and various other aggregation and social networking tools.

A few weeks back it was Burma and it's citizen journalists leading the way, this week it's the coverage of the Wildfires in Southern California.

Martin Stabe reports how San Diego TV station News 8 has "responded to the crisis on its patch by taking down its entire regular web site and replacing it with a rolling news blog, linking to YouTube videos of its key reports, plus Google Maps showing the location of the fire.

"There are links to practical information that their viewers will need at this time, including how to contact insurance companies, how to volunteer or donate to the relief efforts, evacuation information and shelter locations.

"It’s an exemplary case study in how a local news operation can respond to a major rolling disaster story by using all the reporting tools available on the Internet," he concludes.

Of course, not all news organisations are equally innovative. As always, though the future may already be here, it's far from evenly distributed – to the dismay and frustration of many of us. Here's Kevin Anderson, blog editor of The Guardian, writing on his personal blog:

"If part of news organisations’ job is to be a trusted guide, why are so many blind to the aggregating this content and helping their audience navigate it? ...I’m still baffled why web aggregation during breaking news with follow up interviews still are the exception not the norm. There are all of these people living through a news event making themselves known through blog posts, photo sharing sites, social networking sites and more, and yet we’re still telling the story through wire copy, agency video and stills..."

Bloggers Blog has a good overview of online reporting and resources from California here.


US shield law offers no protection for the Dr. Stockmanns of this world

Citizen journalists, bloggers and even poorly paid freelancers will be excluded from the right to protect confidential sources under a new federal US shield law proposal, passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives last week.

There's still a few legal hurdles to pass before the law becomes reality, but it seems likely that the US will end up with a shield law of "limited scope and usefulness", according to David Ardia of the Citizen Media Law project.

Out of touch with reality
Enter Dr. Stockmann, the famous protagonist of Ibsen's Enemy of the People. And no, it's not only the recent problems with contaminated water in the city I live in that makes me think of him. As I've touched upon before, this law proposal is completely out of touch with reality. In one respect it's almost as out of touch with the radically changing media landscape as Ibsen's plot...

In a world where everyone can publish, Ibsen's carefully constructed plot falls to pieces. I don't know about the psychological struggles and emotional turmoil, he might still have to face those, but in today's society Dr. Stockmann could easily bypass corrupt politicians and self-serving editors by uploading a video showing the contamination at the city's prestigious baths to YouTube, or blogging about the evidence.

US shield law would benefit Stockmann's enemies
But this is also where the proposed US shield law complicates things. Let's for the sake of the argument say that a) this takes place in the US and b) that during his two years of research to establish the source of the contamination, Dr. Stockmann talks to sources whose reputation and/or jobs would be at stake should their names be revealed.

Who would stop the doctor's corrupt brother, the mayor, US shield law in hand, from forcing Stockmann, whose only motivation is serving his community and doing the right thing, to reveal his sources?

Not far-fetched
You might think that this literary scenario is far-fetched, but according to Reporters Without Borders: "In the field of human rights, it is citizen journalists and not professional journalists who have been responsible for the most reliable reports and information – the information that has most upset the governments."

Likewise, it's hardly far-fetched to believe that local 'champions' would go to great lengths to expose local misconduct or irregularieties which affect their lives or their community adversly. Social media enables people to do this more effectively than ever, that is why the current wording of the shield law proposal is so misguided.

'We need a shield law for all acts of journalism'
Amy Graham of Poynter's E-media Tidbits writes: as passed by the House, the bill now defines a "covered person" as: "a person who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public for a substantial portion of the person's livelihood or for substantial financial gain and includes a supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such covered person."

This, writes Ardia: "would likely exclude many freelance journalists who must rely on other work to supplement their incomes. Do we really want judges to be deciding whether a journalist is earning enough money to qualify for protection?"

He concludes: "Journalists -- and more importantly, the public -- desperately need a federal shield law. But what we need is a federal shield law that protects all acts of journalism regardless of whether they are done for pay."


Citizen journalism, blessing or curse?

Perhaps it's wrong to call it citizen journalism, perhaps 'eyewitness reports' is a better term. It's certainly not live blogging as I once phrased it, but with the way international media covered the recent events in Burma, it's clearer and clearer that eyewitness reports are starting to play a bigger and bigger role in mainstream media coverage.

Something is shifting: for me, as for others, Virginia Tech marked the first time eyewitness reports reached me much before I tuned in to mainstream media. So when I heard about the unrest in Burma, blogs and social networks seemed like the obvious first place to start looking for news of what really was going on.

But using social media for mainstream media purposes is not unproblematic: it raises big questions about verfication, who to trust, how to approach people, quality of coverage etc, as others have described more eloquently before me.

Still, these issues are worth giving some more thought to, especially since I've seen and heard several naysayers use the coverage from Burma as yet another excuse to have a go at how internet is corrupting standards and quality (like here, no direct links for the others) recently.

I don't usually advertise the work I do for a living here, but I was able to use links actively in this piece, and it takes comments, so if you're interested in this debate and have some skill in Scandinavian languages, you might want to stop by here (all the juicy links are over there...)


Blogger who brought down minister scoops up citizen journalism award

Well wouldn't you know, Magnus Ljungkvist, the blogger who first published the damaging revelations that forced Sweden's trade minister, Maria Borelius, to resign, has just been awarded 'Nyhetspriset 2007, Årets avslöjande' [News price 2007, the expose of the year]. The price is a new citizen journalism award founded by political blog Politikerbloggen and PR agency Prime PR (via Hans Kullin).

Regular readers of this blog might remember that Swedish tabloid Expressen contested that it was Ljungkvist who brought down Borelius and claimed to have had the scoop days before it published it. These claims must have been swallowed uncritically by Sweden's Association of Investigative journalists who awarded the tabloid the prestigious journalism price 'Guldspaden 2006' for the very same story.

The purpose of the latter award reads as follows:
"Guldspaden [the golden spade] is awarded to journalists active in Swedish media who through committed and knowledgeable journalism reveals fundamental issues which the public previously was unaware of."

Guess bloggers must be some sort of crazy outcasts, a separate race perhaps: if we're not part of the public, what are we then?


Citizen journalism project survives Danish freesheet merger

It was with some concern I read this week that Nordjyske's regional freesheets Centrum Morgen and Centrum Aften would merge with JP/Politiken's 24timer and be published as 24timer Centrum after the holidays.

Yes, it's just another, perhaps inevitable, merger in the once so overcrowded Danish freesheet war, and 24timer had already swallowed JP Århus+, another regional freebie, but with DitCentrum.dk Nordjyske pioneered one of the most interesting citizen journalism projects around:

A lot of newspapers allow their readers to set up blogs on their site, which is great for increasing traffic to the news site, but most separate the blogs from the rest of the newspaper - which means there's no synergy between the bloggers and the news. Nordjyske has avoided this by taking to heart examples such as American backfence.com, newsvine.com and digg.com as well as Korean ohmynews.com: blogging is not separate from the news stream, but part of it. At ditcentrum.dk readers can upload blog posts, articles, pictures, opinion pieces and poems, which may then be printed in the real paper the next day. And people happily report on local stories such as flooded tunnels, the price level at local pizza takeaways or compile a photo gallery of fun trucks trafficking the region's highways (In this paragraph, I'm paraphrasing a few lines I copy-pasted from a review by Henrik Föhns, published last summer, but the link is broken after Journalisten.dk redesigned its site)

Lars Jespersen, a managing editor at Nordjyske explained: 'The readers' contributions are not confined to a separate section, but scattered throughout the newspaper. We have 12,000 unique users at centrum.dk every week and are very happy about that. The readers' stuff we print can be stories about local affairs, reflections on life, opinions, poems, pictures. Lots of pictures. It's a mixed bag.'

This concept, Jespersen told me, will not be affected by the merger, and, together with its readers, Nordjyske will supply all the local coverage to 24timer Centrum – which will get a circulation of 35-40,000 and be distributed both at traffic hotspots and door-to-door.

Of course, the future success of 24timer as such will not in any way rely on this regional citizen journalism project alone. Far from it: it's still war, and many feel that four major freesheets is at least one too many for the small Danish market. But in the larger scheme of things, this is one of the citizen journalism projects I've come across that makes the most sense to me.

I think people need a strong motivation, or a strong sense of community, to produce citizen journalism that can compete with or supplement mainstream media, as in the case of readers reporting on local issues, and local newspapers are perfectly placed in this respect. I can totally see myself submitting a story for free to my local newspaper about a community issue I care about, political or practical, and, of course, it's the perfect way for a local or regional newspaper to become more relevant to its readers.



Chequebook journalism and the invasion of the amateurs

'Press photographers are bound by a professional code of conduct, you can't say that for your average Joe,' Knut Haavik, editor of Norwegian gossip rag Se og Hör, commenting on the inflation in mobile phone pictures – well-awarded by the press if it involves the right celebs – during yesterday's open hearing in the wake of Se og Hör's 'chequebook-journalism scandal'.

Haavik said this particular brand of citizen journalism (my phrase) means we're fast approaching an informer society, which I guess sites such as GawkerStalker could be taken as evidence for. However, I'm not so convinced the celebs of this world feel a professional code of conduct makes the world a safer place.

Yesterday's hearing was based on a report about Se og Hör's work methods which indicated that roughly 15 per cent of the gossip mag's stories rely on chequebook journalism. The Norwegian Press Association is considering to alter the country's code of conduct for journalists to get to grips with the problems surrounding this type of journalism.


Blogs: a terrible one-way street channel of communication

Hans Kullin has generously blogged his notes from a debate on 'citizen journalism – threat or opportunity', hosted by the Swedish journalist union, and once again one of those issues where parts of the Swedish press is seriously confused raised its ugly (or ridiculous) head: the controversy over Sweden's blogging foreign minister, who has been likened to Hugo Chavez for using a 'one-way street' channel of communication.

Kullin reports: Pnina Yavari Molin from the new media section of Swedish tabloid Expressen "was worried that journalists are losing their 'monopoly' as opinion leaders and told of an example from Göteborgs-Posten where Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt refused to answer questions from a journalist and instead wrote a comment to the article on the site [his blog]."

I guess that is somewhat reminiscent of the recent debate about A-list bloggers who'd rather blog answers to journalists' question, or conduct the interviews via email. Should disintermediation be the sole privilege of bloggers?


The Changing Role of Journalists in a World Where Everyone Can Publish

There's a lot of media buzz around citizen journalism these days : some see it as cheap or free labour lowering the standards of journalism, others as a vital tool to reengage a disengaged audience – leveling the playing field in the process.

In her White paper for the Freedom of Expression Project, social software consultant Suw Charman looks at how citizen journalism is changing the face of news: "Unlike some, I don't think that citizen journalism is going to replace traditional journalism, but rather that journalists are going to have to adapt to take into account the needs of not just their readers, but also their community and the citizen journalists alongside whom they work," she says.

Here's some of my favourite quotes from the White paper, but there's lots of interesting stuff here, so go read the whole piece:

...We have plenty of information. What is scarce is attention..

...Algorithmic filters can only ever be a small part of the story. We need human beings to act as curators of information, to help us understand the wider context of the story, provide analysis, make connections, and explain complex stories using metaphor or analogy...

...the web is built of hyperlinks, and there is a valuable opportunity for the media to deepen their coverage of the news by linking to the sources used in an article's preparation, plus background reading, watching or listening. Instead of simply republishing content in a flat unlinked form, news organisations should be considering how they can use hyperlinks to create richer, more informed, and more nuanced coverage of every type of news. This is particularly important in complex areas such as geopolitics, conflict, and globalisation, where context is required for full understanding....

...The empowerment of the public has undoubtedly resulted in increased civic engagement. Political apathy occurs when citizens feel disengaged from the political process, so it is essential to democracy that people are able to take part in public discourse: the ability to speak out, to be heard, and to make a difference is of vital importance in modern society. Citizen journalism plays a key part in this process, but with massive proliferation of information sources, we risk overwhelming ourselves, thus stifling instead of nurturing the conversation...


DIY Journalism

"It's no longer news to anyone that the Internet makes everyone a publisher. But does mainstream media fully understand the implications, and that alternative sources are becoming the news provider of choice -- especially when there is no choice?" asks Steve Klein on Poynter Online. He offers this compelling example, which I suspect is a kind of coverage we will see much more of:

The Washington Capitals, a National Hockey League team, plan to send four reporters to Moscow to offer hockey fans unprecedented coverage of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship now underway through May 13... "Our local media -- either because of lack of interest or lack of budget due to declines in circulation, ad revenue decreases and newsroom layoffs -- are not covering the World Championships of Hockey in Moscow," Leonsis wrote May 3 on his blog, Ted's Take.

"The tournament is big news around the world so we have decided to invest and send four people to cover the event and then put all coverage on the Web for free. We will share the news with new and traditional media outlets and syndicate it far and wide.

"Web 2.0 makes it possible for us to get our coverage out to millions and millions of people, promoting our sport, our team and our players. Our coverage on the Web and in the blogosphere is starting to look like a well heeled major media enterprise compared to many traditional media outlets that must curtail their coverage due to lack of budget based on the fragile state of their old business model."
Read the full article here.


Live from the Editors' Association's annual conference

What happens when you get a team of ardent bloggers to live blog the annual conference of the The Editors' Association, where Norway's editors are gathered to learn more about new developments that challenge and change the role of the editor - such as citizen journalism, blogging and virtual worlds? Well, it's time to find out: I've put together a team that will be doing exactly that for the next two days, so if it gets a bit quite here that's why.

Why are we live blogging this event? The massive changes in today's media landscape affects us all: from editors to journalists, communication professionals to readers. This is an attempt to open up that debate. The conference blog is here (in Norwegian).

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Virginia Tech shootings – a watershed for live blogging?

A shooting at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg Virginia has reportedly left over twenty people dead. Robin Hamman looked around for coverage from students and staff on campus, and the results are, well, staggering? This was tough reading for me. A watershed of sorts, absolutely – certainly a much more devastating, disturbing read than most newspaper articles would be...

Update 17/04 (6am): Bloggers Blog offers an overview of sites detailing blogs and cellphone coverage of the tragedy, while Jeff Jarvis muses on the video from the scene made by student Jamal Albaughouti, and the students' efforts to keep student site PlanetBlacksburg.com constantly updated with impressions and news.


Toulouse 'citizen' riot photographer threatened with arrest

It seems the new French law , that many feared would criminalise non-accredited journalists who recorded acts of violence, is already having an effect. Graham Holliday reports how he was forced to show his press card to prevent the police from confiscating his camera during Sunday's violent protests against Le Pen's rally in Toulouse. Disturbingly, another photographer on the scene, who did not have a press card to waive, reports: "I got all the photos and videos I took yesterday on my camphone deleted by a policeman who told me he would arrest if he ever saw me doing again."

I must admit I don't know anything about any other French laws, with regards to recording acts of violence, that may have preceded the newly introduced one, but the new law will hardly have made it any easier to report from such events as a citizen journalist. Though some, of course, argue that any fears of this new law being an assault on citizen journalism are completely misguided...


A full-frontal attack on citizen journalism

The newly approved French law, which makes it illegal for non-accredited journalists to film or broadcast acts of violence, is a full-frontal assault on citizen journalism, writes Roy Greenslade. And rightly so.

Even if we presume that this assault on citizen journalism is nothing but an unintended consequence of a law whose professed intention is to clamp down on public order offences, introducing 'a distinction between professional journalists, allowed to disseminate images of violence, and ordinary citizens', is very troubling, as noted in this press release from Reporters Without Borders:

"In the field of human rights, it is citizen journalists and not professional journalists who have been responsible for the most reliable reports and information – the information that has most upset the government. Reporters Without Borders thinks it would be shocking if this kind of activity, which constitutes a safeguard against abuses of authority, were to be criminalized in a democratic country."

At its best, citizen journalism is an important, some would say invaluable, correction and supplement to mainstream media coverage. It broadens the picture. We all know how easy it is for MSM to get stuck talking to the same heads all the time, how the constant deadline race means we rely too much on newswires and don't find the time to do enough independent reporting.

Besides, sometimes MSM simply don't get to the scene first, or they can't get there at all, which I'm sure was part of the rationale for the recent deal between Reuters and Flickr. What if the French riots were to be reignited, and we, in this day and age, would only be allowed to see footage filmed by accredited journalists. If all French bloggers, podcasters, vodcasters, and even those snapping a picture with their mobile phone camera and sending it to a relative, could be put on trial or fined for publishing footage from the frontlines. How bizarre, troubling, surreal....

Then of course, there is the issue of standards, as raised in this recent debate. How can we force citizen journalists to abide by certain standards in terms of ethics, liability etc ? Short answer, you can't. Not unless you're going to publish a piece by a citizen journalist and you're vetting the material he or she provides, at least one would hope any responsible publisher would, take it for granted even.