Posts Tagged ‘citizen journalists’

Bloggers’ Lawsuit Dismissed Against AOL, HuffPo

A New York federal court judge has ruled against bloggers who sued The Huffington Post for compensation for their contributions to the news website.

“There is no question that the plaintiffs submitted their materials to The Huffington Post with no expectation of monetary compensation and that they got what they paid for – exposure in The Huffington Post,” U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl wrote in his March 30 dismissal of the lawsuit.

Jonathan Tasini and others contributors /bloggers filed the class action suit after AOL purchased the Huffington Post for $315 million in February 2011, claiming their contributions and articles contributed to the value of The Huffington Post.

They were seeking back pay – to the tune of $105 million, according to the suit that was filed April 12, 2011, against AOL, TheHuffingtonPost.com, and Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, the news website’s founders.

Judge Koeltl found that the plaintiffs represented “professional or quasi-professional writers” who “submitted significant volumes of content over varying periods of time. For example, plaintiff Tasini, described in the Complaint as a professional author, politician, union leader and successful United States Supreme Court litigant, submitted content 216 times over the course of more than five years and publicized that content through social networking media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Rather than monetary compensation, the unpaid content providers are offered exposure — namely, visibility, promotion and distribution, for themselves and their work,” the judge continued.

“Under New York law, a plaintiff must plead some expectation of compensation that was denied in order to recover under a theory of unjust enrichment. The complaint fails to do so and the claim for unjust enrichment must therefore be dismissed,” according to the judge’s ruling.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/)

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

04

04 2012

Double-Check Your So-Called Facts

While interviewing some folks for an article that I was writing about the local horse industry, I heard a comment repeated that I’ve heard from time to time during the 20 years that I’ve lived in Parker, Colo.

I was told that Douglas County (Colo.) has the largest horse population per capita in the nation.

Since I was writing an article for the Parker Chamber of Commerce’s annual magazine, I decided it was time to try and find someone who might know if that claim is actually true. Yes, I’ve heard it for years. Yes, the person who said it recently also has heard it for years.

The information was repeated, but it was never actually verified. It was time for me to put on my reporter’s cap and do some digging into the truth.

Guess what? I couldn’t verify the claim. In fact, after making calls to numerous people involved with horses and the horse industry statewide, most said they didn’t know. Only one person said he doubted the statement could be true and gave me some information that would lead one to believe that no way could the claim be factual.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was crazy to believe the same claim for 20 years – especially with the area’s incredible population explosion over that same time period.

This is a good lesson for citizen journalists and writers of all kinds. Just because you hear a statement of so-called fact repeated over and over, does not make it true. It is always best to find an expert who should be able to tell you whether the information you’ve heard is factual or absolutely absurd.

So don’t repeat everything you hear as fact – even if you’ve heard it for years and from multiple people. Do your due diligence to uncover whether the information is a myth or reality.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/)

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

03

03 2012

New School Year Creates Openings for Citizen Journalists

The beginning of the new school year creates citizen journalism opportunities for students and parents alike.

Students may want to write about their school’s clubs, happenings and sports events. Parents also may want to cover their children’s sporting events – competitions that might not otherwise be covered by the local media.

Students and parents should strive to be as objective as possible as they can in reporting and writing about these events. For example, a mother covering her son’s football game should set aside her bias of her son’s abilities so she can provide a fair and accurate report of each competition.

Those who can provide unbiased reporting may also want to contact their local media outlet to see if their reporting and writing services can be put to good use. Many local broadcast and print news operations gladly accept the services of citizen journalists especially if they are reliable, are able to write like trained journalists and can meet deadlines.

If you are interested, you should call the newsroom of your local media outlet. Tell the person who answers the phone that you would like to provide coverage of specific local school events and ask who you should talk to. Ask to speak to the appropriate person and request an interview.

Before you go in for your interview, study the ways the media outlet writes about the events or sports you want to cover for it. Then, prepare some writing samples to take to your interview.

For those who may want to brush up on skills before the interview, the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” includes several skills chapters about writing news, feature and sports stories. E-copies can be purchased at http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/.

Susan Cormier is co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists“.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

03

09 2011

Journalists Must Have Integrity

In the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists,” co-author Ron Ross and I included a section on 15 core values that we believe should be upheld by professional and citizen journalists alike.

In light of the recently reported unethical practices involving Rupert Murdoch’s publications, it seems like a good time to discuss some of those core values.

Perhaps especially poignant is core value #15: Integrity. The following is how the handbook describes its importance.

“One gets a sense of the importance of integrity to the journalism profession by this powerful sentence found in the Preamble of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics: ‘Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.’

“Unfortunately, journalism’s cornerstone of integrity has been crumbling in the last few years. The profession has suffered because of widely-reported and well-documented examples of journalistic bias, fraud, plagiarism and fabrication. The cornerstone needs to be restored.

“Citizen journalists must join the many serious professional journalists who still adhere to the ethics and standards that made journalism a valuable and honorable profession. It all begins with integrity.

“Integrity is the virtue of basing all of an individual’s words and deeds on an unswerving framework of personally-held, well-developed principles. This means one must know what is right and wrong, good and evil, helpful and hurtful, and then act accordingly, even at personal cost. Integrity could be called the virtue of all virtues.

“Journalistic integrity suffers when reporters allow their bias to dictate which story to cover and what facts to reveal or hide. Journalistic integrity suffers when stories are made up and presented as real, when phony evidence is offered as authentic and when made-up quotes are repeated as real. The biggest challenge is that once integrity is lost, it is difficult to re-establish.

“Integrity starts from within. Those who live and work with integrity will be empowered and respected by all. Those who act with integrity will bewilder those who are deceitful and enlighten those who are sincere; it’s a wonderful thing.”

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists,” which can be purchased as an e-book at http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

22

07 2011

Tips on Proper Word Use

I don’t mean to nitpick, but here are a couple of reminders on how to use words that are often used improperly.

Over, more than - Many citizen journalists use the word ‘over’ when writing about numbers, such as: “over 200 people were at the event” or “she makes over $50,000 a year.”

According to The Associated Press Stylebook, the words ‘more than’ are preferred when dealing with numbers, so it should be: “more than 200 people were at the event” and “she makes more than $50,000 a year.”

The word ‘over’ should be used to refer to spatial relationships. For example, “the ball was thrown over the boy’s head.”

Burglary, robbery - For news people, there is a huge difference between a burglary and a robbery. A burglary involves entering a building and remaining there with the intent to commit a crime. A robbery involves the use of violence or threat while committing a theft or stealing.

Demolish, destroy – Both words mean something is gone completely and for good. It would be inaccurate to say the building was partially destroyed and it would be redundant to say it was totally destroyed.

Below are examples of words that get misused when people are in a hurry. Slow down when you are writing. Think about what you are trying to say and whether you used the correct word.

Cite, site, sight – Cite means to summon someone to appear in a court of law, or to refer to or quote a resource or example. He cited The AP Stylebook in defending his use of more than. Site is a location. Sight is the act of seeing or a remarkable view.

There, their – There is a place. Their is a possessive. The house is located there, but it is their home.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

12

06 2011

Citizen Journalism is Making Headlines

While most citizen journalism efforts in the U.S. struggle to get recognition, similar efforts around the world are making headlines and bringing in big bucks.

Here are three recent examples:

The London-based citizen journalism website – www.blottr.com – recently was awarded a hefty £250,000 (more than $400,000) investment from “the man behind myvouchercodes.co.uk.”

The company said it plans to use the investment to bolster its team and launch in five new UK cities over the coming weeks.

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, the Omidyar Network of Redwood City, Calif., announced May 9 that it was awarding nearly $5 million to four media-related groups involved in investigative and citizen journalism in the developing world.

The four groups include African Media Initiative (Kenya): the SaharaReporters project (Nigeria); Media Development Loan Fund (U.S.); and the Committee to Protect Journalists (Africa programs).

In the Middle East, the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is offering tutorials to train citizen journalists in the use of new media technologies. Al Jazeera said it is not creating the news agenda but wants to amplify it.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

28

05 2011

Critical Thinking is Important When Reporting the News

With declining news staffs, it seems to me that professional journalists are probably overworked and not being as critical in their thinking as they should be.

As a lesson for citizen journalists everywhere, let me cite a few examples that I’ve come across recently.

A man whose home was in foreclosure told a reporter he had made the last 16 mortgage payments in a timely manner. The reporter failed to delve further into the claim. However, I’m sure most people reading the story wondered why his property was in foreclosure if he’d made 16 timely payments.

A second example comes from a report about a horse owner in Elbert County who was facing cruelty charges. The news story failed to include the horse owner’s name or that the name had not yet been released. It also didn’t say where in unincorporated Elbert County the horses were found.

My guess is the professional journalists just used the press release as it was given to them by law enforcement – without looking at it with a critical eye to see whether it made sense or failed to include some important facts.

Additional information was added to the story after the omissions were pointed out by an associate of the National Association of Citizen Journalists.

And finally, my third example comes from the report on a house fire that failed to identify the one person in the home at the time of the fire and whether the person was injured. It did say the woman was “found near a back door and was pulled from the home.”

Again, I don’t know if the official press release failed to identify the woman and say whether she was injured, but it sure seems to me a thinking reporter would ask those questions. If the answers weren’t available, a reporter should include that information in the story as well.

My advice to professional and citizen journalists is to take a step back and think critically. Don’t just take a handout from law enforcement and think it will include all the information you need for a complete story. And if something doesn’t make sense, ask more questions until it does.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://www.nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

20

05 2011

Arianna Continues to Spread her Wings

Arianna Huffington apparently isn’t bothered by all the complaints from bloggers and citizen journalists who are angry they haven’t been paid for their years of contributions to The Huffington Post.

In fact, she invited bloggers this week to begin contributing to a similar venture with AOL’s Patch.com.

Called “Local Voices,” the new expansion of AOL’s local online news sites seeks bloggers to “complement Patch’s original reporting” in the United States, Huffington said in her announcement on Wednesday.

Local Voices “includes a vision that will utilize every possible resource to ensure accurate, relevant and comprehensive coverage,” including “our ever-expanding network of Patch editors and reporters . . . and cross-posting and amplifying the work of local bloggers who are already doing great work, providing them an even more powerful platform for expressing their views,” according to Huffington.

That’s all fine and dandy, but will this new concept anger an even larger number of bloggers and citizen journalists who would like to get paid for their work? And will those protests lead to boycotts and make AOL regret pouring millions into the project?

AOL reportedly has spent $40 million on Patch in the first quarter of this year alone. It also spent $315 million for The Huffington Post in February.

Or will this project, as AOL hopes, help it regain its prominence on the Internet?

This is one story that is fascinating to watch.

Susan Cormier is the co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

07

05 2011

Common Writing Mistakes Corrected

While doing an incredible amount of editing lately, I’ve noticed that writers and citizen journalists are making some of the same mistakes.

In an effort to cut down on my editing marks, I thought I’d outline how citizen journalist can avoid three errors I keep seeing over and over again.

1) Start your story with the newest information available. Your lead – or first paragraph – should include the news that just happened. That news can – and should – be followed by background information about previous events or developments related to the most recent news.

Let’s take a fictitious example of a new statewide campaign to protect the elderly that was announced April 28. The campaign was launched because of a February 2011 report that noted a spike in assaults on the elderly. Your story should lead with the new campaign – not the old news about February’s report on abuse. But your story should include a paragraph further down about that February report.

2) Put quotes in separate paragraphs. When you use paraphrases and direct quotes from a source, give the direct quotes their own paragraph. Always put quotes from different sources in their own paragraph. Do not combine quotes from separate individuals in one paragraph.

3) Comma use when dealing with a list of items is often confusing. Use commas to separate the individual items in the list – except before the conjunction “and” or “or.” It would be: The class included students from the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

There is an exception. You would put a comma before the conjunction if the list of items contains one item that also has a conjunction, such as: Freelancers, bloggers, unpaid student interns, and citizen and professional journalists are covering the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29.

These are the types of tips that are included in the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists,” which can be purchased online at http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://www.nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

29

04 2011

Do all Citizen Journalists Deserve a Paycheck?

The debate rages on over whether citizen journalists and bloggers should get paid for their work.

The most recent salvos come amidst AOL’s $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post and a class-action suit filed by a former HuffPost contributor and activist.

Jonathan Tasini believes bloggers who have contributed to the HuffPost for years should receive back pay – to the tune of $105 million, according to the suit he filed April 12 against AOL, TheHuffingtonPost.com, and Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer, the news website’s founders.

“In my view, the Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” Tasini was reported to have said in a telephone press conference. “This lawsuit is about establishing justice for the bloggers of the Huffington Post and establishing a standard going forward.”

He also said is he urging other bloggers to stop contributing to the HuffPo.

“Anybody blogging for the Huffington Post now is a scab,” he said. “They’re a strike breaker. They’re producing content for somebody who is attacking workers.”

He’s not the only one suggesting that contributors stop writing for free. On March 16, the Newspaper Guild of America joined the Visual Arts Source in urging unpaid writers to stop contributing to the website.

“We are asking that our members and all supporters of fair and equitable compensation for journalists join us in shining a light on the unprofessional and unethical practices of this company,” the Guild said in its press release.

Of course, Huffington sees things differently, reportedly saying the lawsuit is “utterly without merit.”

The UK Telegraph reported that she accused Tasini and other bloggers of changing their tune after AOL purchased the site.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Tasini understood and appreciated the value of having a post on HuffPost – and was only too happy to use our platform’s ability to get his work seen by a wider audience and raise his profile when he was running for office,” she reportedly said.

“Until years later, when he suddenly decided that he’d changed his mind… and that instead of providing a boost to his career and political aspirations, posting on our site was actually just like being a slave on a plantation.”

As the verbal attacks fly, I have to say I can see both sides. Sure, there are some citizen journalists and bloggers who work very hard at their craft and should be paid. At the same time, there also are those who call themselves citizen journalists, but they are only out there writing to promote a cause or issue.

I have to admit that I’ve contributed both ways. I’ve been paid to contribute to a community publication when it needed help. I’ve also blogged for free about citizen journalism. Why? Because I want to promote the National Association of Citizen Journalists. Like I said, I understand both sides.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists (http://nacj.us/) and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/).

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)