Monday, December 2, 2013

A Working Post: A Best Practices Guide to Citizen Journalism

Main Purpose: to create a guide for citizen journalists who are just entering the field and need information on the ethics of their content, the best outlets for their content, and how to work with media professionals.

Preliminary Exploration: I began by reading Dan Gillmor's We the Media, which gave me a foundation in the beginnings and importance of citizen journalism. Much of my current and relevant information has come through the articles that Google Alerts sends me for my searches (citizen journalism, grassroots journalism, participatory journalism). I've also poked around on websites completely devoted to publishing citizen journalism.

Relevance to Digital Culture and My Audience: With new technology making it easier every day for ordinary citizens to take high-quality photos and videos, as well as share text-based articles online, citizen journalism has come to the forefront of many people's minds, including but not limited to media professionals. People often get their news socially, perhaps through an article shared over Facebook, rather than going to the same professional media source regularly. My audience--the citizen--has had very little formal education in journalism, yet is expected to create content comparable in quality and truthfulness to someone who has been professionally trained in the field. This guide will give information and resources for further learning.

Format: This project will take the form of an ebook.

Outlet: This ebook will be freely available on, and I am currently looking into additional opportunities to share my work.

Curation: After reading Dan Gillmor's book, my main curation has been with article-length sources on citizen journalism, but I will probably need to add in sources from more book-length scholarship, even if I don't read the whole book (being true to the subject, if not giving the information of the whole book). My primary sources are plentiful--it's quite easy to find citizen journalism these days. A very easy place also links to my curation of community. There is a Google+ community of 88 members for citizen journalism. Less specific but just as useful are the communities for social journalism (almost 2,300 members) and journalism educators (163 members).

Social Proof: I've had plenty of informal discussions with friends about different levels of formality in journalism and what information we trust. A little more formally, I've had discussions with my academic peers about citizen journalism. Some of them commented on the issue of truth in journalism--what is better shared or leaked and what is better censored? Others have commented on whether or not "professional" journalism should be considered more reliable anyway; they've also connected it to the maker movement. Dr. Burton did a very useful post on the best practices of citizen journalism in response to my interest in the subject; it's nice to see when someone else becomes interested in a topic that you are too. I'm looking forward to more interaction with the Google+ communities that I mentioned previously. These members are on a level between peers and experts, much like citizen journalists in general. I've realized that direct contact with my expert sources is somewhat lacking--though I've learned a lot from them, they don't know that I exist. It's time to step it up there (more on this in the "Next Steps" section).

Next Steps: I'm starting work on a prototype for my guidebook. I'm going to do things a little out of order and create my outline with an introduction and filler text, make a sample ebook for myself to see if that changes how I create my content, and then finish writing the content and filling in all of my sections. I also plan on trying more direct contact with my expert sources--maybe Twitter will yield some results. Wish me luck.