In an era of instantaneous news updates and social media, traditional journalism has transformed, allowing ordinary individuals to become key contributors to the world of news reporting. This phenomenon is known as citizen journalism, or sometimes crowdsourced journalism, and it’s powered by the collaborative efforts of people who witness and document events firsthand. In this Crowdsourcing Week blog, we will explore the power of crowdsourcing in citizen journalism and its impact on the way news is disseminated and consumed.
What is Citizen Journalism?
Citizen journalism is a concept that empowers everyday individuals, often armed with just a smartphone and an internet connection, to report on events and issues they encounter in their communities or while traveling.
These citizen journalists act as the eyes and ears on the ground, providing unique perspectives and real-time updates that traditional news outlets may not capture.
The Role of Crowdsourcing in Citizen Journalism
At an entry level, think of all the reviews people are prepared to take the time to share on platforms like Tripadvisor. In my own neighborhood, people have taken on responsibilities to video on-going and continual road safety issues caused by law-breaking drivers, cases of fly-tipping, and report on local council meetings that approve road and traffic schemes, and funding for local amenities. Their purpose is to ensure the local authorities remain accountable to the local population.
Crowdsourcing plays a pivotal role in such citizen journalism, amplifying its reach and credibility. Here are some key aspects of how crowdsourcing enhances citizen journalism.
Citizen journalists come from various backgrounds and locations, providing a rich tapestry of viewpoints. Crowdsourcing allows for a more comprehensive understanding of events, reducing bias and offering a more holistic picture.
Crowdsourcing enables immediate news reporting. With smartphones and social media, citizen journalists can share photos, videos, and text updates, often faster than traditional news outlets can react.
Verification and Fact-Checking
The wisdom of the crowd can be harnessed to verify the authenticity of information. Other citizen journalists, professional journalists, or online communities can help fact-check and validate the accuracy of reports. This process can weed out fake news.
Local and Niche Coverage
Citizen journalists often cover hyper-local stories or niche topics that might not get attention from larger news organizations. This diversifies the news landscape and ensures that important stories are not overlooked.
Crowdsourced citizen journalism can transcend borders, making it easier to report on international events and share stories that might otherwise remain untold. It can also make news more accessible in repressive states where freedom of reporting is restricted.
Crowdsourced journalism platforms
Crowdsourced journalism platforms provide a space for decentralized citizen journalists, independent reporters, and concerned individuals to share their news, stories, and information with a wider audience and in a more structured manner than operating individually. They provide an alternative source of information alongside the established media platforms and networks, where agendas can be determined by controlling owners. Here are some of the more notable crowdsourced journalism platforms.
Citizen Portal gives Americans access to hundreds of thousands of hours of searchable video content of public meetings, supplied by members of the public. From meetings of school boards to local and state-wide authorities, it represents AI-powered first-hand access to public meetings “without the media bias.” Transcripts are also available. The platform also provides a searchable database of government data and statistics, to which it applies AI for predictive analysis.
Citizen Portal aims to “revolutionize civic engagement, revive government transparency, and transform American democracy.” Following initial pre-seed funding, the platform is offering shares through on-going crowdfunding on the U.S. StartEngine platform. A diverse ownership is in keeping with the aims to avoid media bias and empower ordinary citizens. At the time of writing, the total amount invested by 1,248 backers was over $880,000. To monetize the platform, Premium subscriptions will be available to citizens who want nationwide access, as well to schools, universities, libraries, and lobbyists and government affairs professionals.
Bellingcat is known for its investigative journalism and open-source intelligence. It encourages contributors to investigate and report on various global issues using publicly available information.
Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. It is a collaborative news platform where users can write and edit news articles. It operates similarly to Wikipedia.
Rappler is not just an alternative news source, it is the Philippines’ leading digital media company. In a country noted for economic inequality, high poverty rates, unemployment, underemployment, and widening social inequalities, Philippine law does not protect the free exercise of journalism. It was placed 132nd out of 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, and this was the country’s best ranking in the last six years.
Journalists considered to be too critical of the government, and principally the tough pursuit of its war on drugs, face harassment and arrest, and Rappler walks a tightrope of reporting as accurately as it dares. Its founder, the 2012 Nobel peace laureate Maria Ressa, was convicted in June 2020 in a cyber libel case and faces a potential sentence of up to six years in prison. She is currently out on bail and appealing the conviction before the Supreme Court. She also faces further charges of tax evasion and receiving money from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2021.
Against this background, Rappler launched its Rappler Communities app in December 2023, claiming “The insidious manipulation of Big Tech – inciting fear, anger and hate for profit – has destroyed the public sphere and the crucial discussions needed for democracy.” The app aims to provide a safe space in which people can share diverse news and comment with journalists, civil society groups, thought leaders, or simply with friends and neighbors.
Ground News processes nearly 60,000 news articles every day from over 50,000 different news sources. Articles from different sources covering the same event are merged into a single story, making it possible to get multiple, balanced perspectives in one place.
Ground News users can also conveniently go behind actual news content to identify media bias, check source credibility, and view ownership data for news outlets around the world. It was created by an independent team of self-described “media outsiders” based in Canada. The CEO was formerly a NASA engineer.
Global Voices is a community of bloggers and citizen journalists who report on issues and events from around the world. It aims to provide perspectives often missing from mainstream media.
Take care out there!
By combining the power of citizen journalism with crowdsourcing, we are witnessing a transformation in the way we consume and contribute to news. This dynamic and collaborative approach has the potential to bring important stories to the forefront, providing a voice to those who might otherwise go unheard. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, citizen journalism, driven by crowdsourcing, is sure to remain a vital force in keeping us informed about the world around us.
Please be aware that the status and popularity of platforms may change over time, and of course there can also be new ones. So it’s a good idea to research them further to determine their current activity and relevance to your own requirements. Additionally, when contributing content, be sure to adhere to the guidelines and ethics of each platform.