Posts Tagged ‘citizen journalists’

Reports on Dennis Rodman’s Antics Deliver Two Ways to Tell a Story

The words that are used to describe a crime scene, a car accident, a public incident, or the reactions of individuals and their behaviors can make a big difference in the way a story is told and understood.

While citizen journalists should try to capture the details of the moment for their readers, they also should be careful in choosing the words they use to describe an event or scene.

A website – AmericanRhetoric.com – provides a great example of two ways a story was told by two different individuals.

Both individuals believed they were telling the “truth.” But what they were telling was the true story as they saw it through their eyes.

They used phrases such as “dangerous tirade,” “in typical fashion,” “wild and theatrical behavior” and “consistent with past heroics” as they described an incident involving former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman.

Just for fun, go to http://www.americanrhetoric.com/rodmanphase1.htm and do the exercise. Read both versions of the story. Pick out some of the words that you think are a bit slanted. Think of some words you might have used instead.

If nothing else, do as AmericanRhetoric.com asks you to do: “Consider the effect that each version is likely to have on audiences who did not actually witness the event(s), and, who experienced only a single written version.”

Interesting lesson, don’t you think?

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/).

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15

04 2011

Not all Contributors are Citizen Journalists

Due to recent news reports and discussions among citizen journalists, it appears time to take a look at the different types of so-called citizen journalists.

At the National Association of Citizen Journalists, co-founder Ron Ross and I find there are different categories of writers with different goals and intentions.

In our “Handbook for Citizen Journalists,” Ross takes it a step further and describes accidental journalists, advocacy citizen journalists and citizen journalists.

“Just because someone uses a cell phone camera to photograph an incident and then uploads it to Flickr or Facebook, it does not make that person a citizen journalist,” Ross writes in Chapter 5.

Ross and I believe these accidental journalists are among those contributing to the news coverage of large news events, such as those happening in Libya and Japan. They also are sought out by local TV stations to help provide coverage for fires, extraordinary weather and some other news items.

According to our handbook: “Accidental journalists are people who are caught unexpectedly in the middle of an event and take photos or videos and upload them to either social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, or news websites such as CNN’s iReport or Fox News’ uReport.’’

We appreciate their willingness to take the time and contribute eyewitness reports of the events that are surrounding them.

Then, there are the advocacy journalists. These folks have a bias and tend to report only the side of the story they want you to hear.

“Advocacy journalism is a genre of journalism that adopts a viewpoint for the sake of advocating on behalf of a social, political, business or religious purpose. It is journalism with an intentional and transparent bias,” Ross writes in our handbook.

Neither of these types of journalists is what we consider a true citizen journalist, or as one blogger wrote recently – an enthusiastic citizen journalist.

True – or enthusiastic – citizen journalists work hard at their craft. They are trained. They strive to tell all sides of the story in an accurate manner.

These are the citizens who would deserve to get paid for their efforts. Not the one-time citizen at the scene of an earthquake or the biased advocate who is trying to sway you to his or her side of the debate.

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/).

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08

04 2011

Citizen journalists are key source for reports on Syria

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With well-respected wire journalists expelled by the authorities in Damascus the only on-the-ground reports that are emerging are via mobile phones and YouTube. There’s much room for speculation and rumour according to Syria News Wire.

Read the full story: Citizen Journalists Provide Main Reporting On Syria.

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04

04 2011

Care Urged as CNN Expands its Use of Citizen Journalists

CNN is expanding its use of citizen journalists.

The new collaboration – Open Stories – was announced at the annual South by Southwest this month and has been used for CNN’s coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

It is hoped that Open Stories will create multifaceted reports about a single story with contributors posting videos, photos, updates and comments.

I am excited to watch professional journalist as they become more accepting of citizen reports, but I’m also a little bit concerned about what CNN accepts in the way of contributors’ comments.

I urge CNN to refrain from including opinions from every Tom, Dick and Harry. I encourage them to make sure that the comments that are included are actual reports of news from people who are watching news as it is happening.

Then, there’s the issue of pay. Some practicing citizen journalists think CNN should pay citizens for their reporting.

In the case of Open Stories, I think many of these citizens will be what we refer to at the National Association of Citizen Journalists as accidental journalists. They just happen to be on the scene of a news event and have a recording or video device handy to cover what is happening.

Logistically, how do you pay what could be hundreds of journalists who may contribute a fact or two, or a video scene or two? People just don’t pay for eyewitness accounts, which is what is often provided by accidental citizen journalists.

I feel differently about working citizen journalists, however. If they work hard at their craft and go out of their way to be on the scene of a news event and produce quality, reliable reports that news entities are unable or unwilling to cover, they should be paid.

Nevertheless, the CNN project advances the concept of citizens reporting news. As this concept evolves, especially in the United States, I hope the pay will somehow follow.

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/).

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01

04 2011

Libyan Citizen Journalist’s Death Highlights Ease of Reporting in U.S.

The death of a citizen journalist in Libya reminds me how easy citizen journalists have it in the United States.

U.S. citizen journalists never have to fear for their lives. They never have to face censorship or reprimand, as long as they follow the laws of the land and the ethics of the profession.

They can go out in the field, ask questions and write stories they believe will inform their neighbors about the happenings in their communities and the actions of their local governments.

Such wasn’t the case for Mohammad Nabbous, described as the “face of citizen journalism in Libya,” who reportedly was shot dead by forces of Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy on Saturday, March 19.

Nabbous was credited with setting up Libya al-Hurra (“freedom”) TV, which broadcast raw feeds and commentary from Benghazi on Livestream.

Nabbous isn’t the only one who has been put in danger in an effort to report the news and keep the populous informed about what is truly happening.

Seven professional journalists who had been previously captured were released on Monday and Wednesday, according to news reports. At least 10 others are still missing or being detained, including six Libyan journalists who reportedly have been critical of the government.

So, U.S. citizen journalists what’s stopping you? Please take advantage of the freedoms offered by this country. Get your notepad and go outside and start asking questions. You are lucky. You have nothing to fear.

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/).

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24

03 2011

Personal Experience Shows Citizen Journalists are Needed

The problem of shrinking professional news staffs hit me personally when a friend of mine was killed in an auto accident on March 8.

The Denver Post reported the accident and his death, but it failed to follow-up the next day with an article explaining what happened and to identify the driver who caused the five-car crash.

I called the newspaper several days after the accident to request a follow-up article. At the funeral six days after the accident, friends and family were forced to speculate about what may have happened because there hadn’t been any subsequent news stories.

Lack of enough staff to cover local news is a problem we talk about a lot at the National Association of Citizen Journalists. We believe citizen journalists are part of the solution because they can help cover news when professional reporters are unavailable.

The day after the funeral, I decided it was time to put my journalism skills to work. I’ve been telling citizen journalists for years that they are needed to help cover the news. It was time for me to step up to the plate.

The first thing I did was to set my bias aside. Although I was angry that this driver led to the death of an innocent man who was sitting in traffic on his way to work, I decided I could set that anger aside in my search for the information that the victim’s friends wanted to know.

I then wrote out the questions that I wanted answered. That made it much easier to interview the police sergeant who returned my call about the incident.

The sergeant didn’t seem to care that I was a citizen journalist reporting the story. He gave me all the information he had available and noted that the investigation was continuing.

I believe I wrote the story in a straight news manner. No one reading it would know that I was a friend of the victim. I then offered my story to The Post, but my offer was politely declined.

Barry Osborne, The Post’s online news editor, said Wednesday the reporter who covered the initial accident would follow-up on the crash. He said there had been a delay because that reporter had spent the next week covering another tragic story – the killing of a policeman in Limon, Colo.

Since I haven’t seen a follow-up story yet, I posted my report on The Post’s YourHub.com website.

I hope The Post will follow up when the accident investigation is complete and charges are filed. If not, rest assured that I’ll be there to fill the void.

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/).

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19

03 2011

Deceitful Practices set Bad Example for Citizen Journalists

An online newspaper editor is setting a horrible example for citizen journalists who want to cover news in their communities.

Ian Murphy, editor of the reportedly left-leaning Buffalo Beast website based in Buffalo, N.Y., failed to identify himself correctly before interviewing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about the debate surrounding public-employee unions that led Democratic state senators to leave the state to stop a vote.

According to an Associated Press report in The Denver Post on Thursday, Feb. 24,  Walker thought he was talking to a conservative billionaire named David Koch, not the editor of an online newspaper.

In the interview, Walker reportedly described several ways to pressure Democrats to return to the state Capitol and said his supporters had considered planting people in the protest crowds to stir up trouble.

After he learned the interviewer was not who he thought, Walker was quoted as saying: “The things I said are the things I’ve said publicly all the time.”

So Murphy didn’t really get any fantastic scoop from his unethical conduct, which he told the AP he did to show how candid Walker would speak to a conservative while refusing to return calls from Democrats.

This incident reminds me why I am so passionate in my role as a trainer for the National Association of Citizen Journalists. I don’t want citizen journalists to learn how to be journalists from folks like Murphy. Deception is not the way to do journalism.

So please, if you are a practicing or aspiring citizen journalist, identify yourself correctly before interviewing folks. Honesty is the only way to be ethical and respected. And that’s the only way to be a journalist – professional or citizen.

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/).

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25

02 2011

Only Time Will Tell if AOL’s Purchase of HuffPo Will Help or Hurt Citizen Journalists

AOL’s $315 million purchase of The Huffington Post that was announced Sunday, Feb. 6, raised eyebrows in the online journalism community.

According to news reports, Arianna Huffington will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group.

AOL, which has been seen as apolitical, risks losing its nonpartisan image, according to The New York Times, which also quoted Huffington as saying her politics would have no bearing on how she ran the new business.

Sprinting out of the starting gate, Huffington the next day talked about how she wanted to put citizen journalists to work on the 2012 presidential campaign.

Some have questioned whether the citizen journalists and bloggers who have contributed free content will remain onboard without pay.

At the same time, others have written that HuffPo’s business model is misunderstood and that the content contributed by unpaid writers represents only a small share of its traffic.

Only time will tell how this will develop, but it certainly will be interesting to watch.

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/).

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18

02 2011

Citizen Journalists Cover Multitude of Issues

If you spend a couple of hours browsing citizen journalism websites and blogs, you’d be amazed to learn the variety of topics being covered by citizen journalists these days.

Citizens around the globe are covering everything from community affairs to automobile trends and from auto accidents to celebrities.

Take Grahamstown, for example. Citizen journalists in this small town in South Africa have informed their communities about 300 things they would never have known, according to a blog written by Professor Harry Dugmore, MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communication at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

While some of the stories included big breaking news, others pieces came from small blog-like posts. The stories ranged from plans to close a poor performing school in Grahamstown to a report about an automobile accident.

“Almost without exception, these stories are about issues that Grocott’s Mail, the local paper that is also South Africa’s oldest independent newspaper, would not have been able to cover due to meager resources,” Dugmore wrote.

On citizen journalism sites such as Merinews, Cplash and STOMP, you’ll find stories about the report from the White House Commission the BP oil spill, factors affecting your CMS web design costs, the status of certain car manufacturers, a dog being beaten and rescued, and Pamela Anderson being named PETA’s person of the year.

Immigrants in the United States are even getting into the act.

In New York, operators of the queens7.com website hope to bring immigrant communities along the 7 train together with a mix of local news and advocacy. With the help of citizen journalists, the site covers issues of interest to immigrants in three communities, according to Noel Pangilinan, the site’s executive editor.

In California, Catherine Traywick, an immigration blogger for the Media Consortium, writes about the Mobile Voices program, through which immigrants in Southern California are using their cell phones to document their stories.

Then, there those very narrowly defined citizen journalism websites, such as citizen-news.org, which focuses mostly on health issues, and GlutenFreeVoice.com, which “was born out of a need to build a community of gluten-free persons … who understand what it means to be gluten free.”

The sites and the citizen journalists who contribute to them run the gamut. So I’m guessing if you have a specific interest and a desire to report, write and inform, you can find a site that’s right for you.

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/).

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07

01 2011

If Only I had my own Copy Editor . . .

Most citizen journalists don’t have the luxury of asking a skilled editor to proof their articles before they submit them.

In fact, citizen journalists often find themselves in the difficult situation of writing and then editing their own copy. This can be the most difficult editing that exists because it is very hard to catch your own errors. You know what you want the article to say, so you overlook misspelled or misused words, typos and incorrect grammar.

Believe me, I know. I’ve had my share of self-editing struggles.

So before submitting your articles, I highly recommend asking someone to review them for any possible errors. If you have a friend who can look over your work, by all means do it.

Another suggestion is to read your story at least three times. The first edit should focus on whether the story makes sense. During the second reading, pay special attention to spelling and grammar. On the third time through, you might want to see if there are any unanswered questions or negative words that could get you into trouble.

If time allows, give some distance between your readings, like an hour or two. That gives you a chance to walk away, think about something else and then come back more refreshed to look at your writing and catch possible errors.

These editing suggestions are the type of information included in the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” and the training offered by the National Association of Citizen Journalists. For more information or to order your e-copy of the handbook, visit http://www.citizenjournalistnow.com/. To learn more about the training offered by the NACJ or to sign up for your free subscription to the Citizen Journalist Post, visit http://www.nacj.us/.

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22

12 2010