January 4, 2010

Accuracy tip sheet

How to emulate the practices of professional journalists

As more individuals practice citizen journalism and more organizations become incorporate media into their online communication strategies, it’s important to keep in mind the precepts of journalism.

Here’s a short guide to ensuring accuracy from the Center for Citizen Media in a project that I managed.

Before you write

1. The best way to maintain accuracy is to develop a system and stick to it.

2. Take the extra seconds to read back to the interviewee the spelling of his or her name. If you need an age, ask for a birth date and year.

3. Avoid using secondary sources to verify facts.

4. If you have to use secondary sources, find at least two and make sure they agree independently; don’t simply ask one to confirm what the other said.

5. Verify phone/fax numbers, web and email addresses. For example, copy the url from the document and paste it into a browser. Call the phone number.

Continue reading »


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January 11, 2009

Citizen journalism questions and answers

Where to find citizen journalism sites — and how to start your own

By Christopher Grotke, Mediagiraffe
and Jarah Euston, FresnoFamous

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. CyberJournalist.net 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 Gather.com).

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.

Christopher Grotke is with Media Giraffe.org. Jarah Euston founded FresnoFamous.com.

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January 28, 2007

OhmyNews: ‘Every citizen can be a reporter’

ohmynews-newsroom
The OhmyNews newsroom in Seoul, July 2006. (Photo by J.D. Lasica)

 

A tour inside the newsroom of the pioneering citizen journalism publication

Following is a Q&A with Jean K. Min, communications director of OhmyNews International, the trail-blazing citizen journalism publication in Seoul, South Korea. The exchange — with questions put to him by myself and Matthew Lee of the Center for Citizen Media — took place in January 2007.

Please tell us about OhmyNews. How did the site get started, and what are its goals?

As a former journalist of a minority liberal magazine named Mahl since 1988, Oh Yeon-ho, the founder and CEO of OhmyNews, had faced repeated rejections while trying to access major news sources. Doors were shut and questions were unanswered.

As a taxpayer, he felt it was his natural right to demand government agencies to grant access to the vast reserve of public information. That was when the idea that “every citizen is a reporter” came up to him. The idea stayed with him for several years until he began his journalism study at Regent University in the United States.
During his graduate study at Regent University, one of his professors asked the class to draft a paper plan on an imaginary new media start-up. He drafted a detailed launching plan of an online news media, building its business model upon his long-dreamed idea that “every citizen is a reporter.”

After coming back to Korea in 1997, he began to persuade some angel investors with his business plan and eventually quit his job at Mahl. With the initial funds raised from these investors and an additional sum from his own personal coffers, he launched OhmyNews in February 2000. The rest of story is now history.

What sets OhmyNews apart from traditional media outlets such as the South China Morning Post?

In his memoir recently published in Korea, Oh has written of his original vision that he “wanted to start a tradition free of newspaper company elitism where news was evaluated based on quality, regardless of whether it came from a major newspaper, a local reporter, an educated journalist or a neighborhood housewife. … So I decided to make the plunge into the sea of the Internet, even though I feared that which was different from what I was accustomed.”

The Internet allows people to have two way communications and Oh wanted to make the most out of this new medium. Oh explains the difference of OhmyNews model as opposed to that of traditional media as such:

“Every citizen can be a reporter. Journalists aren’t some exotic species, they’re everyone who seeks to take new developments, put them into writing, and share them with others.”

Continue reading »


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January 22, 2007

Citizen sleuthing: The unmasking of Lonelygirl15

matt_foremski

 

16-year-old offers tips on research methods used to uncover her true identity

Matt Foremski, pictured above, tells how he did some citizen sleuthing to discover the true identity of YouTube’s Lonelygirl15. She was not a home-schooled 16-year-old girl named Bree but rather an actress named Jessica Rose, who had recently moved from New Zealand to Burbank, Calif. I caught up with Foremski in an AIM chat to learn the details of how he broke one of the biggest Internet stories of 2006.

Q: First off, what’s your age and what do you do?

A: I’m 19 now and do some busy work for my dad’s sites, like Silicon Valley Watcher. I was 18 and was taking off a semester of college to play around on the Internet when all this happened. Now i’m at the santa rosa junior college.

Q: Your father, Tom Foremski, got you interested in blogging and then videoblogging?

A: Yes,  he always likes to talk to me about emerging tech stuff, which i like as well. I got into vlogging from spending time at YouTube.

lonelygirl

Q: When did you first begin following the saga of lonelygirl15 on youtube? what intrigued you about her?

A: I caught it at the end of june – i thought she was pretty and spunky. I feel she turned me on to a new area of youtube, that of videoblogging. before, I just went on youtube to watch the funny cats.

Q: Were you caught up in the storyline, or did you suspect she was spinning fiction from the start?

A: I think it took me a few weeks to catch on, as i read some of the comments attached to her videos. it was happenstance that made me dig around: i had a domain, lg15.com, and I kept getting emails asking if she was a fake or what the actor’s name was.

Q: What did you find out? How did you uncover her identity?

A: I had read through an article about the outing of the lonelygirl15 production on the hollywood site tmz.com and found in the article’s comments a link to a myspace page someone believed to be that of the lg15 actress.  whoever it was had closed up shop – made their profile private – which made it seem like a dead end.  i had remembered a little trick about google’s search engine cache, as people have used it for evidence gathering before, so I took a look at the page with that tool.

The cache was from late spring, and it had all the person’s salient details – full name, date of birth, home town and such. I then did another google search around that person’s name and came up with two headshots that were undoubtedly of lonelygirl – once again saved in google’s cache, which i rushed over to my dad, and we ended up publishing that on svw early that morning.
Q: You mean Silicon Valley Watcher’s scoop,  The identity of LonelyGirl15.

A: Right.  initially, just the first two—I added in the latter ones to round it out later that morning.
jessica1 jessica2

jessica_smile jessica-redneck

Q: You also did some digging around about her background in new zealand?

A: Yes, all those details of her background I found on her myspace page. She was an actress from a small city in New Zealand who moved to Burbank to act. The name on the profile was “Jessica Rose.” when i searched her myspace user name,  “jeessss426,” on Yahoo, it turned up a bunch of pictures from her probably forgotten ImageShack account.

Then,  someone else found a whole load of her online photos, which really gave the story some pop. :~)

“I think the collaborative construct allows for a lot of people to put in little tidbits of info and half thoughts that when combined properly can be the fabric of great stories.”

Q: OK, what happened next?

A: That morning my friend Cody and I put together a video to feature on youtube.

When my dad published the story it got picked up rather quickly and was sourced for a ny times article and a few others that ran later that morning.

Q: They found out the identity of the filmmakers behind the project, right?

A: Yes, I believe they were sitting on a big article that they then decided to publish after our part of the story broke

Q: This sounds like an effort where users acting as citizen journalists in effect teamed with mainstream reporters to contributed to a piece of investigative reporting. What does this episode say about the power of “online wiki-style investigations and manhunts,” as the NY Times put it?

Q: I think there is a lot to be said to that effect. I think the collaborative construct allows for a lot of people to put in little tidbits of info and half thoughts that when combined properly can be the fabric of great stories. :~)

It’s really comes down to how you can put all those varying sources of information together and pull a story out of it.

A: OK, thanks, Matt, great job.

Q: Sure, thanks!

This post originally appeared as part of the Knight Citizen News Network’s Principles of Citizen Journalism project.


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December 2, 2006

Citizen journalism FAQ

Where to find citizen journalism sites — and how to start your own

By Christopher Grotke, Mediagiraffe
and Jarah Euston, FresnoFamous

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. CyberJournalist.net 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 Gather.com).

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.

Christopher Grotke is with Media Giraffe.org. Jarah Euston founded FresnoFamous.com. This article originally appeared at the Personal Media Learning Center.

Please contribute to this article in the comments below.


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