news:rewired Crowdsourcing

So, onto other people's panels, and I've plumped for the crowd-sourcing one, as I'm not local enough for the local panel and not clever enough for the data-mashing one...

The speakers have placed very heavy emphasis on the verification process, from Demotix looking at information contained within digital photos to check they were taken when and where they claimed to be, to Sky taking twitter accounts that talked about Iranian issues prior to the protests more seriously than ones that jumped on the bandwagon.

Thumbnail image for Ruth Barnett
Ruth Barnett of Sky made the point that it isn't just a question of pushing things online, but think how a journalist (dare I say curator?) can add value and analysis to it in the way that crowd-sourced information is presented. An unverified picture submitted to the Telegraph news desk is more likely to be spiked than a verified one.

Perhaps this isn't a surprise from a conference full of journalists (and hence vested interests...) but we've spent very little time talking about the mechanisms of crowd-sourcing as opposed to verification of sources. 

What incentive is there for student journalists to train and do things differently? asked one member of the audience. "They're just another source,' argued Andy Heath of Demotix. "But they're not if you call them a journalist," argued back the woman from the audience.

There's an undercurrent of hostility to the very idea of calling these contributors to crowd-sourced journalism "journalists" in any way - and that it's under-mining credibility. In answer, people are suggestion that people can become journalists for single events - one time they happen to be at the right place at the right time. 

Indeed, is the citizen journalist label being misappropriated by traditional media outlets? Are crowd-sourced opinions or contributions really citizen journalism, or is citizen journalism individuals using new technology to make a difference?

Andy Heath
Heath has just come back with a good point: that it's a spectrum, from one-off acts of journalism, through to the full-timers, but people are countering with suggestions that pay, or ethics, or training are a hard line, not a spectrum.

Kate Day from The Telegraph has suggested that these are tools you can use as part of journalism, and that those voices that feed into it are participating in the journalism.

But the tone here is of hostility: "irresponsible" "legal risk" "diluting reputation". 

The point I haven't heard raised once is that this is happening anyway, whether or not we (as the 'professional media') participate in this, and that there's a hunger for it - for the voices of real people, without the heavy filters traditional journalism processes put in the way. If we choose to ignore it, we lose attention (and influence) to other places were people can do their individual acts of journalism. 

Kate Day