Archive for October 3rd, 2008

Crowdsourcing journalism

Again, here’s the “trailer” for Jeff Howe’s new book that we watched in class today:

And the PowerPoint I shared:

(By the way, I’d suggest you download the full PowerPoint so you can follow the many links I threw in there to examples and such. Might be a good resource for you.)

For more on crowdsourcing, check out Jeff Howe’s blog … OJR’s guide to crowdsourcing journalism … and, perhaps best of all is this excellent “spotlight” from Louse Thomas that culls many of the best links on this subject. This series on crowdsourcing and journalism also is an invaluable resource. Check ’em out!

Filtering bad apples in citizen journalism

Apple’s stock took a major hit this morning after a phony report of Steve Jobs having a heart attack was posted to CNN’s citizen journalism site, iReport. After bloggers confirmed it was false, the report was yanked from iReport, and the stock bounced back.

Techcrunch offered some interesting observations on the morning’s events:

Rather than fight the rise of citizen journalism, CNN decided to try to co-opt it by launching iReport. CNN’s iReport site lets anyone put up posts and videos about the news. Its tagline is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.” Sometimes these reports get on CNN proper (presumably, after being vetted).

But as this incident shows even the an unvetted report carries more weight than if it had appeared on Twitter or a random blog because it is on a CNN site. And that may be purely because it gets distributed more broadly. It could also be because people tend to believe what they read on CNN-branded sites.

Let’s not let one bad apple ruin the whole experiment, though. Obviously, there are a lot of smart people out there who can contribute to general news gathering. There needs to be a better truth filter on iReport and other sites that allow the anonymous reporting of news. A better reputation system for contributors would help. They shouldbe encouraged to use their real names. And maybe a bigger disclaimer needs to be placed up top saying: “Read At Your Own Risk.”

Crowdsourcing the VP debate

Hey, everyone, I jut ran across this item from the indispensable iWantMedia daily e-mail update (full post here):

National Public Radio (NPR) is doing something interesting for tonight’s vice presidential debate: It’scrowdsourcing fact-checking through micro-messaging service Twitter.

It’ll work like this: While you’re watching the debate, if you hear anything by either Democrat Joe Biden or Republican Sarah Palin that you think is not true, NPR is encouraging you to look for a source to prove it. If you can track one down, they’d like you to post it to Twitter and include the tag #factcheck, so they can find it.

NPR will then take these questionable claims, investigate further, and post anything that is in fact a questionable statement made by one of the candidates to its blog. If you’re not a member of Twitter, you can also leave your fact-checking results in the comments of their post. (Or you can sign up for an account, like a lot of other people interested in politics are apparently doing.)

So, this comes a day late if you wanted to contribute, but you can follow the debate reactions via this Twitter search and follow NPR politics’ tweets here. Do you think this worked?

Writing for blogs and the Web

How do you write for a blog?

As with most things, there isn’t one “right” way, but let’s start with principles of good writing for the Web. Internalize these, please.

Next, think about writing for a blog specifically. Some general tips here, with a note about optimal post length here. And 10 tips for a good post. Mostly common sense kind of stuff, right?

In blogging, most of the same principles of good writing (offline and online) are very much in play, but here’s where it becomes essential to have voice, personality, flair, and all those things that make someone interesting and something interesting to read (and comment upon). (Think: the writing style of Gawker.) So, writing principles are similar for whatever you’re blogging—shorter the better, use active voice, use strong verbs, attribute sources via hyperlinks, use lists and quotes to break up blocks of text, etc.—but you’ll need to decide what kind of blog writing style to employ. Consider a few examples …

The ticker blog … Posts are very frequent (sometimes every 10 minutes!); they come in short bursts, telegraph-like, with heavy emphasis on quick wit, few words, and often one-link posts directing readers to stories/videos of interest. Example: Instapundit.com

The in-between blog … OK, that’s lame, but I couldn’t come up with a better name for this, which is basically you’re more “standard” blog of frequent posts (at least once daily, but for the more popular blogs sometimes a dozen or more times a day) of 200-some words in length. Examples include Techcrunch and Daily Dish.

The essay blog … Posts are infrequent (sometimes a couple times monthly); they’re classic “think pieces”—long essays of prose, dense with hyperlinks burrowing deep into the subject. Example: Jay Rosen’s PressThink. (Note: even long-form bloggers like Jay Rosen have adopted the ticker style through things such as Twitter; check out his “mindstream“).

OK, now for your “assignment” … visit the blog/website you’re examining for your midterm case study. Give it a 5-minute read-over. How’s the writing? What kind of styles do they employ? Let’s discuss in class.


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