Citizen journalism isn’t stepping up sufficiently to fill the “information shortfall” caused by cutbacks in the newsrooms of newspapers and other traditional news organizations, a University of Missouri School of Journalism study finds. “While many of the blogs and citizen journalism sites have done very interesting and positive things, they are not even close to providing the level of coverage that even financially stressed news organizations do today,” said Margaret Duffy, associate professor at the Mizzou j-school. “Not only do these blogs and websites lack the staff to adequately cover stories, but most citizen journalism managers do not have the financial resources and business experience to make their websites viable over time.” The Missouri study looked at the top 60 citizen journalism Websites and blogs, and identified several factors including how much linking each website included, how much public participation they allowed or invited, how frequently news and content were updated, and whether the citizen websites provided contact information for the public.
The entrepreneur who created a virtual marketplace that connects sellers and buyers worldwide is launching an online news site where people will pay to exchange ideas and discuss issues affecting their communities. Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay Inc., is entering the news business with a new online service in Hawaii. By charging a USD 19.99-a-month membership, Omidyar hopes to accomplish what newspapers and other media organizations nationwide have long struggled with — having readers pay for content and making local news profitable. Civilbeat.com is expected to go live Wednesday with the official launch scheduled for May 4. It promises to provide in-depth reporting and analysis, and be a civic plaza for island residents. “Reporter-hosts” will post articles, interact with readers, provide frequent updates and host discussions. Omidyar decided more than two years ago to launch a news service to cover local civic affairs, including the state, city, education, land and money. The site will feature a “topic page” for each issue. On the page, readers can find links to stories, history and background information. The other unique aspect will be the discussion section. Unlike traditional newspaper online comment sections that are often marred by hateful, obscene, racist or mindless commentary posted by anonymous readers, Civil Beat members will be identified and no anonymous comments will be allowed
Faded Internet star AOL is reinventing itself as a digital age news operation with an army of freelance writers wielding online tools. Fresh from being spun off by Time Warner in December, AOL launched Seed.com to groom freelance writing talent to crank out stories for its array of websites on topics ranging from pets and sports to politics and technology. “AOL is repositioning itself as a news and information company,” Seed programming director Saul Hansell said Tuesday as he demonstrated the website at the annual South By South West (SXSW) gathering of technophiles. AOL editors post assignment descriptions on an online Seed bulletin board. Pay for writing jobs ranges from five dollars to 300 dollars per article. Writers then submit their versions of a story along with headlines and pictures. AOL editors sift through queues of submissions deciding whether to accept, reject or kick stories back for improvement. Authors names are displayed on stories at AOL Web properties without “asterisks saying ‘look at the cute little citizen journalists,'” Hansell said. Freelancers that have proven themselves may be given personal assignments and invited to pitch story ideas. Seed is in a testing phase and is expected to evolve with feedback
After a three year hiatus, Yahoo News is once again opening up to news commenters. The site, which has been the top source of online news in the US for several years now, has quietly added a standard commenting feature to all of its articles, which allows visitors to post their opinions, respond to specific views left by others, and vote comments up or down. Most of its big (and smaller) rivals already feature similar systems. Yahoo News had previously allowed its users to comment on news articles via message boards. But the company shut those down in late 2006 in part because of the poor quality of discussion. This time around, Yahoo has added filtering technologies to its comment streams, in order to ensure that higher quality comments are highlighted
News in Gondi and Kuduk, dialects spoken by tribals of central India, may soon be only a phone call away, as citizen journalism and mobile phone technology are creating a new media outlet for the largely semi-literate and illiterate community. Shubhranshu Choudhary, former BBC producer and administrator of the Chhattisgarh Network website http://www.cgnet.in, says a mobile technology developed by Microsoft India in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology allows citizen journalists to leave voice recordings that could be accessed by others wanting to hear the latest news. “Though numbering 27 lakh according to the 2001 census, the Gonds living in five States, including Chhattisgarh, hardly have a voice of their own. The mainstream media, for various reasons, does not address the issues of tribals and most journalists do not understand the language anyway,” he says. He cites the example of farmer suicides in the State. “Now people can dial 080-66932500 and there are options to either record a news story or to listen to a news bulletin. In the first phase there are only Hindi news stories, but we are planning to expand it to include the Gondi and Kuduk dialects by the end of the one-year fellowship period,” Mr. Choudhary says. Director of the fellowship programme Elisa Tinsley says the aim is to make the project self-sustaining by possibly linking it to mainstream media organisations.
The Paris-based citizen photojournalism agency Citizenside has partnered with Metro International to launch a new website for citizen reporting. The site, MetroReporter, allows readers to upload and share their news photos and video. All contributions are vetted by editors before being posted. If they are published in print or on Metro’s primary site, the member is paid between €10 and €70. Membership of MetroReporter is free and Metro has agreed to purchase and publish user contributions on a regular basis. This means that an international publication has plans to regularly pay its audience to contribute content, rather than expecting user-generated content to be free. MetroReporter is part of the MetroFrance site, exposing it to the publication’s high traffic. This is a pilot project in France and there are plans to establish similar sites in seven other countries. Citizenside also recently formed a partnership with French radio station RTL, which has launched the website Témoins RTL (RTL Witnesses). This site allows users to upload photos and videos, and if other media organisations wish to purchase them, RTL sells the images and then pays their creator. The site uses geo-location and users who have provided their place of residence can receive email alerts about events that are taking place nearby
A study carried out as part of an online survey by the research agency DECODE as part of an international benchmark project of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers in 2008, has found that Dutch youth (based on 1,000 people between the ages of 15 to 29) are neither interested in receiving news via mobile applications nor taking part in citizen journalism projects. They also do not find newspaper sections aimed at young people a compelling reason to regularly pick up a paper. They do, however, judge news media fairly positively. Whilst initially surprising, the results of the study “Youth, news media and civic engagement,” are in line with findings of a new study by IBM’s Media and Entertainment Group, which shows that online news consumption has dropped among young adults, but risen among older consumers, calling into question the assumption that young people read more online news and older people favour printed publications. The study’s authors however, noted that it is important to avoid generalisation: Nico Drok and Fifi Schwarz, professor of media and civil society and managing director of Stichting Krant in de Klas respectively, state that there are obvious differences between those who do regularly read quality newspapers and those who do not, particularly in their levels of “interest in news and their civic engagement.” The study also showed that a large number of Dutch youth do indeed appreciate access to a wide variety of news media, but prefer stories that are more pertinent to their own lives