The shape of citizen journalism
Dan Gilmore looks at one of the leading exponents of citizen journalism in the world -- OhmyNews International in Korea. Citizen journalism has the potential to revolutionize journalism. And citizen journalism is nothing but open source intelligence gathering. Gilmore's observation that the enabling tools are arriving like a tidal wave are of particular interest.
There’s never been such an amazing time to be trying out new things. We’re almost buried in an avalanche of tools and ideas that have enormous potential to make journalism more diverse — and better.
The ideas and tools are everywhere. Consider just a few examples among thousands I could list:
- Jay Rosen’s NewAssignment.net, where pro-am journalistic “crowdsourcing” is looking more and more real, and where the potential for improving journalism is breathtaking.
- Map mashups, such as the powerful Tunisian Prison Map that is shining a light on a repressive regime’s stifling of political dissent.
- New mobile communication devices such as the Apple iPhone and Nokia’s N95, which are making major evolutionary advances in media production.
- Placeblogger, where Lisa Williams has been aggregating a new kind of local media and is working on a geo-tagging system that could encourage more relevant local advertising.
- Pambazuka News, an African podcasting service that calls itself a “weekly forum for social justice in Africa.”
Even the Washington Post is getting into the act and is experimenting with hyperlocal journalism. We're not in Kansas any more.
On the heels of hyperlocal pioneer Backfence shutting down, the Washington Post has launched its own hyperlocal experiment — LoudounExtra.com, a site dedicated to Loudoun County, a suburb of Washington, DC. (Thanks to Hashim for the tip.)
It so happens I live in Loudoun County, and with that context, here’s my first take — LoudounExtra.com isn’t hyperlocal enough. Here’s the problem, which I think is a more fundamental issue with hyperlocal and not a failure of execution on the part of WashingtonPost.com — hyperlocal is most meaningful at community level — even the county level is too big.
Here's what I think people will see in the next decade. Big news won't go away but readers will be able to drill-down on news stories in a way impossible before. For example, suppose new riots break out in the banleius of Paris in 2017. The reader will be able to drill down into every greater detail. Was a man burned on a torched bus? Click and find the micro-journalist who is following the recovery of the victim in a hospital. Or discover how the riots have affected a particular suburb in northern Paris. Not only will you be able to drill down, but you will be able to interact with the news. With online payment systems I believe readers will be able to support micro-journalist efforts to find out more details about an story, in a miniature version of the way readers support Michael Yon in Iraq today.
Most news will be about non-political events. The consumers of the new news will be stock analysts, market researchers and the aggregators of special news products. While the headline will not go away, the story behind it will be fleshed out to a degree now impossible. And that's just the beginning.