Training the crowd as journalists

In the Philippines, the ABS-CBN TV network has been training citizens – 1,000 in the first recent class, 700 in the next – to report on the upcoming election there. They call it the Boto Mo iPatrol and count 15,000 members. Their curriculum:

They will orient the “patrollers” on the fundamentals of citizen journalism—from shooting pictures or videos using cell phones or cameras, to writing captions and telling a story, to uploading their reports to the Internet. They will also be briefed on the electoral process and the ethics of journalism.

I’ve argued that training is going to be a key role for the professional journalists and news organizations as they learn to collaborate with and empower communities to report on themselves. ABS-CBN News is doing that, gaining thousands of new witness-reporters in a story too large for any news staff to cover alone and adding value to their coverage, including verification.

  • PXLated

    Training is good.
    Back in the 80s when Control Data was a Fortune 500, we did a full day training program (with printed guidebooks) for the local newsletter admins (usually the plant managers asst and scattered all around the country). I did a session on type standards, local printing, composing/taking images, etc. The local newsletters were folded into the corporate newspaper. Was very successful and won the national & international Golden Quill awards (three years running as I recall).
    It was amazing what a little training can do.

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  • Lucas Pattan

    “I’ve argued that training is going to be a key role for the professional journalists and news organizations as they learn to collaborate with and empower communities to report on themselves.”

    Reminds me of Gladwell’s most recent article, and his ironic statement:

    “If you can afford to pay someone to get other people to write, why can’t you pay people to write?”

    Is citizen journalism very different from interviews and eyewitness reports? Or is it just getting people to do work for no pay?

  • Neat. Sounds like a thing to add to the K-8 curriculum. Since everyone is publishing a bit of universal training might be interesting.

  • @ Lucas. Do we need professional journalists to report on everything? The answer is no. And it is where we need citizen journalists. The volume of local reporting in local newspapers in the US is just ridiculous. How can you bring any value to your community with 20 to 40 daily local articles? Le Dauphiné Libéré, in France, publishes 3,000 to 4,000 articles a day. Why? Because on top of their 265 journalists, they have a network of 2,000 paid citizen journalists. And that, for more than 50 years. Nothing to learn or to copy here?

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  • My question is this: is there a separation in journalism school between the process of getting news published and the process of doing investigative reporting? The former seems relatively straight forward and of value to a citizenry that wishes to participate in the reporting process (yes, even if it’s for free). The latter seems like a learned skill that can take months or years to perfect, and shouldn’t be short-cutted with a single-day workshop.

  • In February 2006, when I was chairman of RTNDA, I spent 10 days traveling throughout the Philippines training professional broadcast and online journalists on media ethics. This was at the request of the State Dept., which came to RTNDA for help because local radio and TV reporters were being murdered in disproportionately high numbers there. Many would accept bribes to file reports favoring one candidate. The second candidate would then pay a higher bribe to get favorable coverage. The first candidate would then have the reporter assassinated because he didn’t feel he got his money’s worth. This was happening not because Filipino reporters were inherently bad. Most were honorable, above-board crusaders exposing corruption at great personal risk. Rather, it was because they were paid next to nothing and the temptations were too great for some. “What good are media ethics if my children’s stomachs are empty?” one radio reporter in Davao City asked me. ABS-CBN is to be commended for this bold experiment in citizen journalism. But I know first-hand that a “briefing” on ethics won’t be sufficient in what is, essentially, a systemically corrupt environment, especially in smaller communities and rural areas of that country. On the other hand, maybe opening up the process to more people will dilute the ability of the corrupt to influence media coverage. That’s how I will hope it ultimately works.

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  • Todd

    Frankly, I don’t see a difference between so-called “trained” journalists and “citizen” journalists anymore, so I just don’t care anymore. They all deliberately inject their viewpoints into their reporting, something I was trained not to do. TV news now adds music to stories to influence emotion, which may add drama but, in my opinion, violates news value. The Brits tend to report in first person, as if that builds a relationship with the audience, when really it just makes me more suspicious of the bias that’s being injected into the “reporting.”

    The problem with news nowadays is that regardless of “trained” or “citizen” status of the reporter, the definition of what is “news” has become lost.

    And while I agree with Jeff Jarvis that the Star Chambers of editors who, in their arrogance, decide what is news and what isn’t, may not be working, the fact that we’re getting two weeks of wall-to-wall Michael Jackson coverage proves that pandering to the lowest common denominator and the so-called “citizen” journalist who blogs or tweets or posts on YouTube while our U.S. president systematically destroys our country isn’t working either.

  • Mrs. Miller

    Jouarnalism; fact or fiction, it seems that no mater what we see on t.v or here on the radio it has some truth and some of what the reporter or journalist added to spice it up. I have learned make my own conclusion, mabe i’m right.

  • Training as the key, particularly in the thousands? Could not agree more. There may not be a future to television or newspapers but training is alive and well. Vibrant, in fact. (As I write from the middle of our course training NOAA employees to be video literate).