Posts about networkedjournalism

A challenge from the Times

In a comment under my post about restructuring the Times Company below, someone calling him or herself Timesman says that indeed Bill Keller of the Times does want to work collaboratively with his readers, the question is how:

But what, specifically, should journalists at the Times ask its users to do? Let’s hear some very concrete next steps. We’re listening.

OK, friends, let’s take up that challenge. I’ll start the bidding. Please add your ideas of how the Times and its public can work together to perform concrete acts of journalism. (And spare us the kneejerk Times-bashing; those sentiments are stipulated.) Some suggestions:

* Put large amounts of data or documents online and ask the public to help find the stories there. The Dallas Morning News did this with the just-released JFK documents. The Ft. Myers News Press did it with a FOIA on a botched hurricane-relief effort. The Sunlight Foundation has us exposing earmarks in spending bills. Someone, I can’t recall who, did it with Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before Congress. Use your access to get such data and then ask us to help dig into it because we know what’s going on or simply because you want the help. I’d start with Congress and get help from Sunlight and bloggers to strategize that.

* Ask the public to help gather data points around a story. The quickly classical example of this was Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show asking listeners to find out the prices of milk, lettuce, and beer to find out who is being gouged where (which then enables the journalists to ask why — put their price maps against maps of income and race in New York and stories emerge). This should work particularly well on a local level: Ask people to tell you the price they pay for drugs and doctors and map that. Ask them to tell you just how late or dirty their trains are. And on and on. If you get enough data, you can pay attention to the center of the bell curve; the outliers are either mistakes are damned good stories.

* Get the public to help file no end of FOIAs to birddog government. Create a FOIA repository where you can help train them how to do it and record the responses (that bit’s a great idea from Tom Loosemore in the UK) and collect what’s learned.

* One of the great ideas that came out of my entrepreneurial journalism class — inspired by an idea from an intern I worked with at Burda last summer — is to have the public help assign reporters. Now that could get unwieldy quickly. But my CUNY student, Danny Massey, came up with a very smart structure for capturing what the public wants to know so news organizations can allocate at least some of their resource accordingly. I’ll introduce you.

* Establish communities of experts to help on stories, their reporting and checking and even their assignment. This could take the form of Jay Rosen’s beat-blogging idea or of the Ft. Myers panel of experts. Of course, every reporter has such panels in their Rolodexes. But Ft. Myers has learned that people want to be of service before the reporter happens to call. The Times’ crowd is very wise and filled with experts and so why not use the networking and linking power of the internet to help harness that to help with reporting? Imagine a social network around expertise.

* Hand out camera and recorders and ask citizens to capture meetings, lectures, events of all sorts and turn those into podcasts. Most of the time most of them will not get much audience, but the resource that went into each one is minor and the opportunity to spread a wider blanket of coverage on a community is great.

* Get the advertising side involved in supporting curated, quality blog networks: New York, political, business, and so on. The Washington Post has networks for travel and other topics, the Guardian for environment, Reuters for financial blogs. The Times could support the very best of these blogs and benefit from having a wider net of content and reporting at a low cost and risk. And this is the part they’ll like: They can set the definitions of quality. The Times also has an in-house advantage here because About.com knows how to manage and pay large, distributed networks of contributors based on ad and traffic performance.

These ideas work for most any news organization. As I’ll point out in a post I’m writing now: collaboration to create real value is the next generation of interactivity.

To get started, I’d hire a collaboration editor charged with getting such projects going all around the newsroom. But I’d make sure that job gets phased out as journalists collaborate on their own self-interested initiative.

So what other ideas do you have for how the Times — or any news organization — could work together to create journalism?

Crowdsourced editing (and conspiracy theorizing)

The Dallas Morning News has put up PDFs of the boxloads of documents about the JFK assassination just released and asked the public to help find the stories therein.

Every journalist a mojo

My Guardian column this week is about my experience in the Reuters-Nokia mojo project at Davos. Since I haven’t written about my conclusions in the blog, here is the full text of what I wrote (which differs slightly from what was printed; link to the videos at the end):

n82.jpgWe already know that camera-phones in the hands of witnesses have been changing news; there is no better illustration of that, so far, than the 7/7 bombings. But I now see that this same device may change the job of the journalist in ways more radical than I could have imagined until I started reporting with one.

At last month’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, I begged my way into Reuters’ mojo – mobile journalist – project and was one of a score of delegates and reporters to get a Nokia N82 mojo phone. Reuters picked the phone because it has a high-quality camera and operates at high speed. For their own journalists, they kit it out with a wireless keyboard, a tiny tripod, a solar battery, and a decent microphone, together with software that enables reporters to organize and publish text, photos, and video onto blogs. They kitted the Davoscenti – including me, Reuters CEO Tom Glocer and WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell – with just the camera-phone and simpler software that let us upload videos in two clicks.

At last year’s Davos, I recorded interviews and pieces with a small consumer video camera that I was able to take into more places than jealous big media could, lugging their heavy and obvious equipment. I shot YouTube cofounder saying for the first time that Google would share revenue with video producers and I put that on YouTube. To do that, I had to import the video onto my Mac and edit and encode it and then upload it online: a hassle and a delay.

This year, when I ran into David Cameron in the halls of Davos, alone and without handlers, I walked up and asked him about his own small video work at Webcameron, which I’ve covered in this column. I whipped out my mojo Nokia and asked whether he’d mind my recording it. I told him I was doing this for Reuters, but I can’t imagine he took that seriously, for I was just using a phone. How could that be professional?

And there is the first fundamental change brought on by the mojo phone: It’s small, unobtrusive, unthreatening. You don’t feel as if you’re talking to a camera and, in turn, to thousands or millions online. You’re talking to a phone; how silly. Other Reuters mojo journalists told me they had the same experience: It makes recording people more casual and perhaps candid and certainly easier.

The camera-phone also allowed me to record moments without drawing attention to myself. At Google’s Davos party, I recorded 14 precious seconds of long-time White House aide David Gergen boogying on the dance floor. As Henry Kissinger stood before a computer recording a video for YouTube, I stood next to him recording the event myself; I went unnoticed. Of course, there are issues: Is any moment of our lives now fodder for broadcast? It’s sobering enough that Britons are tracked everywhere by CCTV cameras, but now you’ll be followed by camera-carrying citizens who could be journalists (but who, even if they’re not, can still broadcast you on YouTube). Life is on the record.

Another key change to journalism brought on by the mojo camera is a difference in how video is used in telling stories. I felt no need to produce a piece or write a story to surround those Davos clips. The snippet is sufficient. I can also see using such video clips as part of larger stories – they become moving and talking pictures. They become part of a multimedia narrative, now that journalists no longer need to pick one medium but can work in them all. In short, we’re not using cameras to make TV with all its trappings and orthodoxies. We’re just making video, video that’s good enough to tell a story.

There’s one additional and even more radical use for the mojo phone: I was able to use it to broadcast live to the internet using Qik.com. Live changes everything.

I conclude from my few days as a mojo in the rarified and thin air of Davos that all journalists – print, broadcast; writer, photographer; reporter, editor – should be equipped as mojos. The Nokia is lovely and all the better because it can upload or broadcast while mobile and can be used to send photos to Flickr and tweets to Twitter (more on that another week). But for the cash-strapped news organization, may I also recommend the $90 Flip Video, which records 30 minutes for upload straight to YouTube via a PC. At Davos, I showed it to the editor of Bild, Germany’s largest newspaper, and he’s ready to buy them by the gross. For today, a wired journalist without a camera and connectivity is like a hack without a pencil.

(Videos mentioned here may be seen at www.buzzmachine.com/mojo.)

Google’s killer crowdsourcing tool

I just created a questionnaire asking what you would kill in a newspaper’s budget if you had to cut costs. Please do go fill it out now.

This is made possible by the new Google Forms, which enables you to create web or email forms people can fill out, with the results pouring into a spreadsheet. This is incredible for surveys and other projects in which you want to gather a lot of data — like WNYC’s Are You Being Gouged project. It’s so simple but so powerful.

(Inspired by Steve Rubel)

Davos08: Tiny cameras

Small video cameras are already the hot thing, gadgetwise, at this year’s Davos. Robert Scoble is broadcasting live from his mobile phone, as Jason Calacanis did at DLD. Loic LeMeur is making videos all over for Seesmic (with a bigger camera). I’m playing with the Reuters/Nokia mojo cameraphone (see the videos below). The YouTube Davos Conversation booth is recording the machers on video with tiny cameras.

And I showed my FlipVideo (the $79, 30-minute, dead-easy video camera) to Kai Diekmann, editor of the biggest paper, by far, in Germany: Bild. He gets thousands of photos from his readers, who send it up to a simple number via their mobile phones. Now he’s practicing networked journalism and assigning and mobilizing them to shoot things. He also told me that next week, they’ll have a top chef from a popular German food show telling readers in the paper to send in videos that he will put on his show. Where’s the line among media there? Diekmann is then doing with videos what he did with phones and so he was wowed by the Flip and wants to order a thousand of htem. That’s what happens whenever I show it to open-minded new people: I tell them they should buy them by the dozen and distribute them to their readers to become producers. Here’s Diekmann: