Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Crowdsourcing & News

Having mentioned previously how retailers (coffee, PC's & high street fashion) are attempting to utilise the knowledge of crowds, I've turned my attention to how The Press 1.0 are using web 2.0 crowdsourcing techniques to solve problems in innovative ways.

Despite the forecasted death of the investigative journalist (or newspapers as a whole)*, there have been examples where the news industry has utilised crowdsourcing methods:

* due to the long tail of publishing and the proposed amateur-isation of the profession thanks to the knowledge of crowds

WECAN
Washington Examiner Community Action Network
http://www.examiner.com/wecan
This site, run by the Washington Examiner in the USA publishes databases of public information for its readers to sift through and report back. So far they have uncovered issues in standards and payments.

USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/
Gannett, the owner of USA Today announced back in 2006 that it was restructuring its newsdesks around crowdsourcing topics. An 'Information Centre' surrounded by seven descrete areas was set up. Apparently partly and admission that blogs and other social media may have somethign to say and partly to increase the size of the resporting team to incorporate "Pro-Am" (A combination of professional and amateur) workers.

Assignment Zero
http://zero.newassignment.net/
This combination between Wired Magazine and New Assignment is a bold attempt to bring journalists together with people in the public who can help cover a story. Participation in it is entirely volumntary and reporters contribute across the world and its hoped it can cover particular stories with more depth and relevance than before.

Well does this combination of citizen journalism and collaborative investigation work?

Some people think that this isn't a new form of journalism, its just journalism. Assignment Zero could also be seen as failing when they found that the crowd became too difficult to mange.
But to quote Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner:

Call me an ink-stained wretch or a hopeless policy wonk with a techno-geeky obsession, but if the possibilities of such a partnering of traditional media and Internet-age citizens doesn’t get your journalism juices flowing, I suggest a visit to your cardiologist.
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