New project shows the future of crowdsourced journalism

  • Author: Lauren
  • Lauren Fisher,

There is no doubting that the news media is  moving away from a 'top down' agenda, as the role of crowdsourced journalism becomes more prevalent and we see citizens playing an increasingly important part in the production of news. This may not be 'news' in itself, but every now and again you come across something that makes you stop and think just what a huge change this in our society and how much it affects the ''normal way of doing things. The New York Daily News is one such example, as they're using Facebook (still relatively unchartered territory for news media) to engage with their fans in a completely new way, as opposed to just feeding them the news in a new way.

Introducing uPhoto

The New York Daily News has been running an app on their Facebook Page, that provides a seamless method for allowing fans to upload photos real-time, that are not just reserved for the 'social' community, but are featured on the main site. It works through an app produced by Olapic, which newspapers can feature on their Facebook Page. Through this, any fan can upload your photos directly on the Page :

These photos can be viewed in the Facebook gallery, but are also pulled directly into the main site

What's impressive to see is just how open the site is. For every photo that's uploaded you can see the comments left, the public profile of the poster and also how many views the particular image has received :

No-one owns the news....except everyone

What a project like this shows, is firstly the willingness amongst people to become part of a crowd-sourced project. It's not just about snapping a photo and sharing it through your own network, but contributing to something bigger and gaining recognition for your work on a larger platform. But what it shows, most importantly, is that nobody really owns the news anymore, except for all of us. There's seems to be little in the way of excessive editorial control of the images the NY Daily News. In the Hurricane Irene set for example, they left 2 images on the site that were actually cartoon drawings made with (harmless) jokes about the hurricane. In this way, the role of the publishers changes. The event happens, and the instead of giving us 'a' version of events, the publisher becomes the provider of a platform for discussion. They move from becoming producers, to facilitators.

There is, inevitably, a risk associated with this. If we're all busy producing the news, who is checking the facts? What is the role of the editor in this new news industry? As consumers we really have no editorial policy to adhere to, and this can be dangerous. Showing this in the extreme, Paul Carr wrote an excellent article towards the end of 2009, examining the consequences of incorrect citizen journalism and the danger within this when we all take something 'reported' by someone, as fact. The fact is, that isn't always the case.

Is there a limit?

What's necessary to consider when examining the role of crowdsourced journalism, are the barriers we might face and whether those barriers are there for a reason. The NY Daily News are setting a good example here. The images are seemingly accurate and provide valuable content for users, yet these are also clearly 'crowdsourced', taking the example of the cartoon image as a reflection of this. There are many though, that decry the role of the publisher at all, claiming that the days of newspapers are numbered, as they face competition from social technologies and platforms that they can't compete with. This is not the case however, at least it shouldn't be, if the paper is able to look forward enough. There is inevitably a limit in crowdsourced journalism, bound by the fact that reporting must be accurate, which necessitates the need for an editor, or an element of editorial control.

There is no reason why crowdsourced journalism can't co-exist with more traditional journalism, as long as publishers can recognise the need to change. And this is happening in a very big way across many larger publications, evidenced by the launch of Beta 620 by The New York Times, which allows people to suggest ideas for new products or services on the site. Crowdsourced/citizen journalism is only set to grow and right now, the publishers seem to be owning this space, opening up to social technologies as opposed to working against them.