Work principles such as crowdsourcing, along with the rise of social media, are shaping journalism by transforming the crowd from an unthinking herd into critical-thinking swarms of citizen journalists. Nowadays, anyone with the urge can share information, images, and video with news outlets or through online forums & add their own perspective.
In journalism, the relationship between journalists and their audience has been categorized as “we write you read”. However, the Internet has changed this, & control is going to the crowd, a crowd armed with web-enabled mobile technology.
Crowdsourcing news in this new era has various forms:
- Investigative work calls on the crowd to help reporters uncover breaking stories. UK newspaper The Guardian regularly uses crowsourcing which has resulted in uncovering the extent of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s finances, and to document the London riots in August.
- General observation involves asking the crowd for information on a particular subject that comes up in their daily lives. The BBC Stargazing Live 2012 program called on views to participate in a planet hunt and to report their findings. The result was an amateur stargazer finding a new planet similar to Neptune in another solar system.
- Breaking News stories with help from the crowd. When suicide bombers attacked the London Underground on 7th July 2005 trapped survivors captured and sent videos of the aftermath with their cell phones. This not only provided newsrooms with breaking footage but also helped coordinate rescue operations.
There is an issue of validation where crowdsourcing news is concerned:
Twitter, which many do not realize is a news source, as a news source, is awash with unverified information, such as inaccurate reports of celebrity deaths which become trending topics. Such reports along with other crowdsourced data would need verifying, a time-consuming process.
However, the flip side to this is that crowdsourcing can provide news outlets with more diverse information, and with proper direction, it can prove to be a valuable and profitable tool.
One high profile example: Last year, the Guardian launched its open journalism campaign, inviting readers to suggest stories and offer ideas. Crowdsourcing is shaping and evolving journalism, and far from replacing the roving reporter it is providing a faster and more interactive news source.
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