As debate continues today about the fairness of the ABC receiving government funding to ramp up regional online content, I found this interesting development in the UK. A big(ish) newspaper group is setting up ‘citizen journalism’ sites for small towns without newspapers. Associated Northcliffe Digital claim:
In every town, there will already be a person who writes match reports for football games, businesses who like to talk about their work, churches who host events every week. We want to co-ordinate that activity.
It’s an interesting move, which has of course kicked off the old citizen journalists v ‘real’ journalists debate. There is no doubt that an interested community member, aka citizen journalist, cannot replace trained journalists, who if they are doing their job properly, provide factual and objective reports on events whether they be large, small; national or hyperlocal. But the online medium does provide an opportunity for groups or issues under-represented in the mainstream media, whether that be particular ethnic groups or local issues, an opportunity to present their stories and views.
The statement: “we want to coordinate that activity”, leads me to believe that this will be a joint venture between trained journalists (ie subs and editors co-ordinating) and community members. It could become something of an extension of Wired magazine’s crowdsourcing project Assignment Zero, which tested the online community building technique of having multiple members of the public work on stories. I think this model has real potential. Not to replace what journalists already do, but to provide opportunities for those untold stories.