Posts Tagged ‘ reporting ’

Do What You Do Best, Link to the Rest

‘Do what you do best, link to the rest,’ is a phrase coined by Jeff Jarvis. He encourages journalists, especially bloggers, to try on this new rule.

Right now, newspapers try to cover everything. This is because they used to be the all-knowing source for everyone in their market. Often, they had their own reporters replicate the work of other reporters elsewhere and ran the stories under their own bylines as a matter of pride and propriety. It’s the way things were done. They also took wire-service copies and reedited it. But in the age of the link, this practice is inefficient and unnecessary. You can link to the stories that someone else did..

According to Jarvis, “This changes the dynamic of editorial decisions. Instead of saying, “we should have that” (and replicating what is already out there) you say, “what do we do best?” That is, “what is our unique value?” It means that when you sit down to see a story that others have worked on, you should ask, “can we do it better?” If not, then link. And devote your time to what you can do better.”

Jarvis believes that people need to strive to provide value, and not the one-hundredth version of the same story. This will work for publications and news organizations. It will also work for individuals; this is how a lone reporter’s work (and reputation) can surface ‘

Jarvis mentions that news is not one-size-fits-all. News just doesn’t come from one source anymore. People are bombarded with news constantly – it is all around us. For instance, everyone knew that Anna Nicole Smith was dead. So that means that not every newspaper needs to cover that story in depth. The New York Times should not devote their time and effort to reporting on the story when they added nothing more to it. It’s not what they do best. If they wanted to cover it, they should have covered it online, and linked to the many, many other sources that are covering that specific story. Then the Times could have used its resources for news that matters and news that they can do uniquely well. They need to take advantage of the link.

Some newspapers are getting more comfortable with linking are and even linking to competitors.

Jarvis noted, “Once you really open yourself up to this, then it also means that you can link to more people gathering more coverage of news: ‘We didn’t cover that school board meeting today, but here’s a link to somebody who recorded it.’”

So you do what you do best. And you link to the rest. It’s a rule to live by..or at least report by.

Crowdsurfing the Crowdsourcing Scene

A journalism technique called crowdsourcing is like a close relative citizen journalism. Crowdsourcing, in journalism, is the use of a large group of readers to report a news story.

Crowdsourcing allows reporters to collect and gather information through some automated agent, such as a website. This is a huge advantage. Journalists no longer have to be ‘on the scene’ to get information, which can save so much time.

Although it is using new technology, the concept of crowdsourcing is not new. Modern crowdsourcing is similar to hooking an answering machine to a telephone “tip line,” where a news organization asks readers to phone suggestions for stories. Or, asking readers to send in photos of events in their community.

These old methods, however,  require a great deal of manual labor. Reporters must sift through submitted material, looking for information that can be used well in a story. But with new technology, reporters no longer have to do this.

True crowdsourcing in today’s terms involves online applications that enable the collection, analysis and publication of reader-contributed incident reports, in real time. Applications such as twitter, Facebook, and even mobile applications. The audience can use these tools to contact reporters, letting them know of story ideas as they break. In essence, crowd sourcing allows journalists to have eyes everywhere.

A great example of this is Janis Krums’ Twitter post about the plane crashing into the Hudson River. The photo seen below was the first photo of the crash.

Photo Credit - Twitpic

Krums whipped out his iPhone and took this photo right after the plane crashed, beating all the traditional media outlets to the story. This shows how media outlets can find great value in using Twitter as a news source.

 

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.

And the Award Goes to…

It seems like congratulations are in order for ProPublica. Back in April 2010, ProPublica won the Pultizer Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Photo Credit - dailypostal.com

ProPublica’s winning story chronicled the crucial decisions of an overwhelmed, overexhausted staff at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina. The story was produced by Sheri Fink and co-published by the New York Times.

According to the BBC News, ProPublica’s win marks the first time that the award has been given to an online news agency. The win also marks another first for its collaboration between such an agency and a traditional news outlet like the New York Times. Sig Gissler, the Pulitzer Prize administrator, mentioned that the journalism industry should “expect to see more of these collaborations in the years ahead as organizations face tougher financial situations.”

The majority of the Pulitzers went to mainstream newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. However, ProPublica definitely stood out as the most notable winner despite being dominated by traditional news outlets.

ProPublica’s success marks the rise of future online news outlets. ProPublica’s win is a positive indicator that a non-profit online business model can sustain the cost of investigative journalism. This gives hope to other organizations such as the Texas Tribune who also use a non-profit model to support investigative reporting. Although these organizations have yet to win a Pulitzer, their entrance into the spotlight may be sooner than we think.

According to the Guardian, the Pulitzer Prizes represent the”gold standard for American journalism.” However, they also point us toward the future, giving readers an idea of what types of journalism they should expect to see more of. Recently, the Pulitzer Prize updated its criteria to allow entries from non-print newsrooms as long as they were “primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing events.”  They also accept entries form any Internet-only publication as long as it is published at least weekly.

It looks as if online journalism is becoming a more professional, more credible and more respected form of journalism. With Pulitzer Prizes going to places like ProPublica, the legitimacy of digital journalism is increasing. Well, if it’s good enough for Pulitzer, it’s good enough for me.

ProPublica Gets Down and Dirty

ProPublica does not produce your average news stories. Instead, they focus exclusively on investigative journalism.

ProPublica’s mission reads: “To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.”

ProPublica strives to focus only on truly important stories – stories with “moral force.” As their mission says, they try to “shine a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”

Unfortunately, ProPublica believes that investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations take investigative journalism for granted. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources and time to do such reports. Time and budget constraints from news outlets make it nearly impossible for journalists to do investigative reporting in addition to their regular beats. Because of the business crisis, the creation of original journalism in the public interest, is being squeezed down, and in some cases out.

More than any other journalistic form, investigative journalism can require a great deal of time and labor. Also, results are not always positive. Sometimes stories that seem promising at first, ultimately fail.

According to ProPublica, given these realities, many news organizations have come to see investigative journalism as a luxury that can be put aside in tough economic times. In a 2005 survey by Arizona State University revealed that out of the 100 largest U.S. daily newspapers, “37 percent had no full-time investigative reporters, a majority had two or fewer such reporters, and only 10 percent had four or more. Television networks and national magazines have similarly been shedding or shrinking investigative units.”

These are just a few examples of how investigative journalism is in danger. But, ProPublica is making moves to revive investigative journalism.

ProPublica says it seeks to stimulate positive change by uncovering unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform. They strive to do this in an entirely non-partisan and non-ideological manner. ProPublica follows the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality and ethics. They refuse to lobby and never sides with politicians or advocacy groups.

ProPublica tries to focus on the two biggest centers of power – business and government. They report on topics such as product safety, securities fraud, flaws in the criminal justice system, and practices that undermine fair elections. ProPublica also focuses on other institutions such as unions, universities, hospitals, foundations and even on the media. They attempt reveal injustices within such institutions, especially when they exploit or oppress the weak or when they abuse public trust.

ProPublica accomplishes this by being persistent. They subject corrupt institutions to public criticism and continue to do so until change comes about. ProPublica says they stay with issues as long as there is more to be told, or there are more people to reach.

But ProPublica does not just destroy an institution’s reputation; they strive to be fair. After writing a report, ProPublica gives the people and institutions that are cast in an unfavorable light the opportunity to respond before the report is published. They claim to listen to the response and adjust their reporting when appropriate. By editing each story multiple times, ProPublica assures that it is accurate and fair. Under the rare case that errors occur, they correct them quickly and clearly.

By doing all these things and more, ProPublica is giving a new life to investigative journalism and journalism practices in general.

ProPublica: How Do They Afford It?

ProPublica is proud to be an independent, non-profit newsroom, but how do they manage to stay afloat?

According to the New York Times, the traditional model of journalism is changing.  Newspaper advertising revenue declines and technology are drastically changing the public’s relationship with news organizations.

In 2009, ad revenue was down 30 percent for some newspapers. The Times says that it is searching for new streams of money and opening itself to new ideas. In the old model, editors decided what news is, assign their own reporters and pay the expenses using ad revenue. Now, with ad revenue down, media outlets like The Times are trying to form a variety of partnerships and arrangements to fund stories.

This is exactly how ProPublica manages to stay in business.

In 2009, ProPublica published 138 news stories with 38 different partners. One of these was actually awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

When ProPublica publishes a story, the story does not just appear on the website.  ProPublica actually offers its stories offered to traditional news organizations, free of charge, for publication or for broadcast.

ProPublica also partners with major news organizations to produce stories. For instance, ProPublica partnered with CBS to do a report on questionable federal stimulus spending on airports. They worked hard to deliver a story free of any political bias.

But it doesn’t end there. ProPublica supports each story that it publishes with an active and aggressive follow up. This includes regularly contacting reporters, editors and bloggers, encouraging them to follow-up on ProPublica’s reporting, and to link to ProPublica’s work.

Interestingly, ProPublica does not just promote it’s own reporters’ stories. The ProPublica website site also features investigative reporting produced by others. ProPublica wants their website to only be a destination, but a tool for promoting good work in the journalism field.

But where is ProPublica getting the funds to do this type of reporting? Obviously, the Sandler Foundation has made a major, multi-year commitment to fund ProPublica. However, they don’t do it alone. ProPublica is trying to build a more sustainable business model and reduce its reliance on the Sandlers. Currently, ProPublica has a large group of supporters and philanthropic contributors such as the MacArthur Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

ProPublica has managed to perfect the art of securing donations. Their stories have to be sufficiently compelling to convince editors and producers to accord them space or time. By consistently delivering compelling stories, donors will be confident that professional standards are being met and maintained, and that important work is being done. Thus, they will be more willing to donate to ProPublica’s cause.

So, is this a model that could be implemented across the board?  Instead of desperately trying to save and adapt the current business model, is it time for a new one altogether?

It’s obvious that news outlets need to change and develop, in terms of what they cover, how they cover it, and how they reach their audience. It’s no secret that the Internet has revolutionized the way people follow the news, and it will undoubtedly continue to play a role in journalism practices. The idea of implementing payment for online news is an option, but has yet to show much success. For now, if newspapers and other media organizations want to function effectively, whether in print or online, they need to be creative in finding new ways to maintain sufficient staff and resources. Thankfully, an organization like ProPublica found a way to provide the American public with quality news stories despite these hard economic times. Let’s hope the rest of the journalism world can follow in its footsteps.