Written by the People, For the People

These days, you don’t necessarily need a degree to be a journalist or even any experience for that matter. With a new concept called “citizen journalism” anyone can partake in journalism. Although some are skeptical of this idea, many new organizations are actually encouraging audience participation in journalism practices

One type of citizen journalism to consider is sometimes referred to as “open-source” or “participatory” journalism or reporting.

This type of reporting is a collaboration between a professional journalist and his/her readers on a story. Readers who are knowledgeable on a specific topic are asked to contribute their expertise, ask questions to provide guidance to the reporter, and even do actual reporting which will be included in the final journalistic product.

There are various ways for journalists to get readers involved with a story. Here is one example from Poynter Online:

“Announce up front that you are working on a particular story, and ask readers to guide you. An example would be if you have an interview scheduled with a famous politician or celebrity. Announce that you want to go into the interview armed with questions submitted by your readers. Pick out the best ones, add your own, then do the interview.”

Another way to get readers involved takes the concept a step further. A journalist can distribute a draft of his or her article to the readers before publishing. Readers will feedback to help the journalist “perfect” the article before it is officially published. For reporters who publish on Web sites or on blogs publish a draft online, getting public feedback, and then later publish the updated version.

One of the most advanced forms of open-source reporting actually makes the readers the reporters. Readers with knowledge or involvement in a topic go out on their own to do actual reporting, which is then incorporated into the final published story. This brings up the issue of payment. Payment for readers’ work can be as simple as giving them credit in the finished article; it does not necessarily always have to be a monetary reward. Obviously, it is always important for the reporter publishing the story to double-check the reader’s reporting.

Nowadays, citizen journalism is becoming a huge trend. CNN’s iReport allows readers to submit their own stories and ideas. Who knows..you may become the next Walter Cronkite.

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