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When the Crowd Doesn’t See
the Value:
Crowdsourcing, Citizen
Journalism, and the Cultural
Production of Local Online
News
Two Case Studies out of
Minnesota
 Twin Cities Daily Planet (in Minneapolis-St.
Paul, MN -- combined population of about 3.5
million)
 Locally Grown Northfield (in Northfield, MN --
population of about 17,000)
 Both working with different models of citizen
journalism combined with professional
journalism
 Looking at questions of cultural production
and value (cultural, financial)
What is Twin Cities Daily Planet?
 Publication established
to give voice to those
who might not have any
exposure in MSM
 Citizen-generated blogs
 Community and ethnic
member media’s stories
 Training for would-be
citizen journalists who
do write for TC Daily
Planet and elsewhere
Research Questions Related to
Citizen Journalism and Value
 First, how does the
crowd or participant feel
about the value of its
contribution to a news
site?
 And second, how does
the journalist or editor
feel about the value of
its contribution to a
news site?
TC Daily Planet
 Founded in 2006
 Founded by TC Media Alliance
 Supported by grants and reader donations
 Overseen by fulltime editor
 Executive director/publisher
 A couple of fulltime editors, interns
Citizen journalism as somewhat
professionalized
 News and feature stories are largely by reporters and
bloggers from member sites, or
 Citizens trained to be journalists working for TC Daily
Planet
 Training through workshops open to the community
members
 Do open it to comments - do not use crowdsourcing
(buzzword to be defined later)
 Reporters organizations see this as win-win: Daily
Planet gets important stories and content, other
publications, reporters, organization get exposure
From citizen journalist whose story
was published…
 “I was so excited to learn my story had been
published in Twin Cities Daily Planet. It was
great exposure for me since I’m just starting
out as a journalist and am in college planning
to major in journalism. It was also great that
the story could be seen by a wider audience
than Engage Minnesota (the publication where
it originated) has.”
What is Locally Grown Northfield?
 Blog/podcast about Northfield, Minnesota, established in
2004 by community activist/former online community
manager for Utne Reader
 Combination of soft news (blog style writing), discussion,
opinion, video clips of events
 The blog grew out of a community radio show with the
three of them discussing issues related to Northfield
 The other two are the executive director of the Northfield
Downtown Development Corporation and a local business
owner
 Blog started soliciting advertising in January 2009 but
largely does not pay at all
Examples of a Locally Grown Blog
Post
 What happened to SNL at Northfield Middle School
 Council Approves Walinksi
as City Administrator
 Snowpiles on Division Street Downtown
 Regular community of followers, many of
whom also listen to radio show and comment
or contribute on the blog
What is Representative
Journalism, or RepJ?
 Idea from a blog written by
a professor at Kennisaw
State (and former
employee of MN Public
Radio), Len Witt
 What if blogs could hire
and support their own
reporters to do actual
reporting and
newsgathering for them?
 Received a $50K grant
from the Harnisch
Foundation, a small family
foundation
How was the first RepJ set up to
work?
 A blogging community --
in this case LoGrowNo
-- would be given a
fulltime reporter
 Salary paid by grant
 May questions: Who
should this person be?
Local who already knows
Northfield?
Outsider who can
maintain more of an
objective stance?
Examples of RepJ reporting
 Business survey reveals some needs met, others n
 Will be accompanied by live chat with some of the
people involved
 Community radio station will have Bonnie on
Saturdays -- starting with this story -- to discuss
the story
 She writes about it on her blog
 Community comments and helps with stories-in-
progress
More examples
 Story in progress: Intern piece
 NTV package: a more indepth
story in progress
 Uses the comments to follow and improve
upon stories in a transparent reporting
process (she notes if it is a story in progress)
 Here’s the buzzword again = Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing
 Facet of citizen journalism -- the act of a citizen, or
group of citizens, playing an active role in the process
of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating
news and information (Bowman & Willis, 2003)
 The act taking on a job that is traditionally done by a
professional and outsourcing it to a large group of
undefined persons (Howe, 2006)
 “Assignment Zero,” which used Internet users from
various walks of life to work as reporters on a
collaborative news project (Rosen, 2007)
The Pros and Cons
PROS
 The greater good and
wisdom of the crowd prevails
 People can fact-check one
another
 Allows audience to invest in
product and therefore, the
product is more valuable to
them
(Gillmor, 2006)
CONS
 Expertise, thorough
reporting, storytelling and
ethical grounding is lost
 A thousand monkeys with
typewriters is still a thousand
monkeys with typewriters (no
such thing as wisdom of the
crowd)
 Crowd has agendas
(Keen, 2007)
How is this working with RepJ and
Locally Grown Northfield?
 Audience actively participates,
Bonnie values contributions
 Audience sometimes argues
with one another and Bonnie
over stories
 Thorough coverage of issues
and pieces not covered by
local paper
 Bloggers appreciate added
benefit of a reporter to
enhance their site (did serve
as a value-add for advertisers)
Audience as Cultural Producer
 Bourdieu: Cultural
production - allows a
person to act within a
hierarchy to produce
something of cultural
value, elevates them
 Could this translate to
value within sites that
use citizen journalism?
Town Hall Meeting for RepJ, Feb.
2009, in Northfield
 Many regular commenter/contributors were in attendance,
also ME of Northfield News, Len Witt, Bonnie the reporter
 By and large, feeling was their own contribution to Locally
Grown Northfield was worthless
 Would not pay for something citizen generated, did not see
the worth of that
 Would consider paying for a professional to do
newsgathering, depending on “format” (Potential models:
Co-op, community garden, public radio), but would not pay
for a blog
Comments
“I don’t think you should hire a whole bunch of
bloggers who are just following the (whims) of
the readers of Locally Grown and the people
who are always commenting on the stories.
It’s better to have Bonnie, or some other
reporter who really knows the whole
community and the important stories.”
Comments
“I definitely don’t see the collaborative
reporting as important here. It’s great
that we have Bonnie, who is a trained
journalist who has worked in journalism
as the person who we can count on to
make sense of all of this.”
Cultural production/Value
 In general, the feeling of everyone there
seemed to be that the collaborative aspect of
the reporting and ability to comment or make
suggestions was dismissed.
 However, people also were hesitant to discuss
whether they would pay to have a fulltime
reporter working for the blog
The Immediate Future
 Both publications continue to maintain crucial
community partnerships
 Both utilize digital media technologies to tell
stories (Twitter, video, podcast, etc.)
 Both publications seek to remain funded
 Both publications seek to remain relevant to
their communities - TCDP will keep same
model, Locally Grown will begin to use Spot.us
tools and has offered freelancers positions
With regard to cultural
production…
 The way the citizen journalism is practiced has
implications for the cultural production value of
its users
 Editors of both sites strongly value contribution
of audience/citizens
 Citizens themselves do not always see it, and
editors also value traditional news values,
adding another dimension of how not to pay
for at least some aspects of journalism
Can cultural production translate into
financial value in local online news?
Can crowdsourcing translate into
crowdfunding?
Too soon to say with regard to two case
studies here
Must pay attention to the correlation
between cultural production and cultural
value
Thank you
stern180@umn.edu

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Stern

  • 1. When the Crowd Doesn’t See the Value: Crowdsourcing, Citizen Journalism, and the Cultural Production of Local Online News
  • 2. Two Case Studies out of Minnesota  Twin Cities Daily Planet (in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN -- combined population of about 3.5 million)  Locally Grown Northfield (in Northfield, MN -- population of about 17,000)  Both working with different models of citizen journalism combined with professional journalism  Looking at questions of cultural production and value (cultural, financial)
  • 3. What is Twin Cities Daily Planet?  Publication established to give voice to those who might not have any exposure in MSM  Citizen-generated blogs  Community and ethnic member media’s stories  Training for would-be citizen journalists who do write for TC Daily Planet and elsewhere
  • 4. Research Questions Related to Citizen Journalism and Value  First, how does the crowd or participant feel about the value of its contribution to a news site?  And second, how does the journalist or editor feel about the value of its contribution to a news site?
  • 5. TC Daily Planet  Founded in 2006  Founded by TC Media Alliance  Supported by grants and reader donations  Overseen by fulltime editor  Executive director/publisher  A couple of fulltime editors, interns
  • 6. Citizen journalism as somewhat professionalized  News and feature stories are largely by reporters and bloggers from member sites, or  Citizens trained to be journalists working for TC Daily Planet  Training through workshops open to the community members  Do open it to comments - do not use crowdsourcing (buzzword to be defined later)  Reporters organizations see this as win-win: Daily Planet gets important stories and content, other publications, reporters, organization get exposure
  • 7. From citizen journalist whose story was published…  “I was so excited to learn my story had been published in Twin Cities Daily Planet. It was great exposure for me since I’m just starting out as a journalist and am in college planning to major in journalism. It was also great that the story could be seen by a wider audience than Engage Minnesota (the publication where it originated) has.”
  • 8. What is Locally Grown Northfield?  Blog/podcast about Northfield, Minnesota, established in 2004 by community activist/former online community manager for Utne Reader  Combination of soft news (blog style writing), discussion, opinion, video clips of events  The blog grew out of a community radio show with the three of them discussing issues related to Northfield  The other two are the executive director of the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation and a local business owner  Blog started soliciting advertising in January 2009 but largely does not pay at all
  • 9. Examples of a Locally Grown Blog Post  What happened to SNL at Northfield Middle School  Council Approves Walinksi as City Administrator  Snowpiles on Division Street Downtown  Regular community of followers, many of whom also listen to radio show and comment or contribute on the blog
  • 10. What is Representative Journalism, or RepJ?  Idea from a blog written by a professor at Kennisaw State (and former employee of MN Public Radio), Len Witt  What if blogs could hire and support their own reporters to do actual reporting and newsgathering for them?  Received a $50K grant from the Harnisch Foundation, a small family foundation
  • 11. How was the first RepJ set up to work?  A blogging community -- in this case LoGrowNo -- would be given a fulltime reporter  Salary paid by grant  May questions: Who should this person be? Local who already knows Northfield? Outsider who can maintain more of an objective stance?
  • 12. Examples of RepJ reporting  Business survey reveals some needs met, others n  Will be accompanied by live chat with some of the people involved  Community radio station will have Bonnie on Saturdays -- starting with this story -- to discuss the story  She writes about it on her blog  Community comments and helps with stories-in- progress
  • 13. More examples  Story in progress: Intern piece  NTV package: a more indepth story in progress  Uses the comments to follow and improve upon stories in a transparent reporting process (she notes if it is a story in progress)  Here’s the buzzword again = Crowdsourcing
  • 14. Crowdsourcing  Facet of citizen journalism -- the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information (Bowman & Willis, 2003)  The act taking on a job that is traditionally done by a professional and outsourcing it to a large group of undefined persons (Howe, 2006)  “Assignment Zero,” which used Internet users from various walks of life to work as reporters on a collaborative news project (Rosen, 2007)
  • 15. The Pros and Cons PROS  The greater good and wisdom of the crowd prevails  People can fact-check one another  Allows audience to invest in product and therefore, the product is more valuable to them (Gillmor, 2006) CONS  Expertise, thorough reporting, storytelling and ethical grounding is lost  A thousand monkeys with typewriters is still a thousand monkeys with typewriters (no such thing as wisdom of the crowd)  Crowd has agendas (Keen, 2007)
  • 16. How is this working with RepJ and Locally Grown Northfield?  Audience actively participates, Bonnie values contributions  Audience sometimes argues with one another and Bonnie over stories  Thorough coverage of issues and pieces not covered by local paper  Bloggers appreciate added benefit of a reporter to enhance their site (did serve as a value-add for advertisers)
  • 17. Audience as Cultural Producer  Bourdieu: Cultural production - allows a person to act within a hierarchy to produce something of cultural value, elevates them  Could this translate to value within sites that use citizen journalism?
  • 18. Town Hall Meeting for RepJ, Feb. 2009, in Northfield  Many regular commenter/contributors were in attendance, also ME of Northfield News, Len Witt, Bonnie the reporter  By and large, feeling was their own contribution to Locally Grown Northfield was worthless  Would not pay for something citizen generated, did not see the worth of that  Would consider paying for a professional to do newsgathering, depending on “format” (Potential models: Co-op, community garden, public radio), but would not pay for a blog
  • 19. Comments “I don’t think you should hire a whole bunch of bloggers who are just following the (whims) of the readers of Locally Grown and the people who are always commenting on the stories. It’s better to have Bonnie, or some other reporter who really knows the whole community and the important stories.”
  • 20. Comments “I definitely don’t see the collaborative reporting as important here. It’s great that we have Bonnie, who is a trained journalist who has worked in journalism as the person who we can count on to make sense of all of this.”
  • 21. Cultural production/Value  In general, the feeling of everyone there seemed to be that the collaborative aspect of the reporting and ability to comment or make suggestions was dismissed.  However, people also were hesitant to discuss whether they would pay to have a fulltime reporter working for the blog
  • 22. The Immediate Future  Both publications continue to maintain crucial community partnerships  Both utilize digital media technologies to tell stories (Twitter, video, podcast, etc.)  Both publications seek to remain funded  Both publications seek to remain relevant to their communities - TCDP will keep same model, Locally Grown will begin to use Spot.us tools and has offered freelancers positions
  • 23. With regard to cultural production…  The way the citizen journalism is practiced has implications for the cultural production value of its users  Editors of both sites strongly value contribution of audience/citizens  Citizens themselves do not always see it, and editors also value traditional news values, adding another dimension of how not to pay for at least some aspects of journalism
  • 24. Can cultural production translate into financial value in local online news? Can crowdsourcing translate into crowdfunding? Too soon to say with regard to two case studies here Must pay attention to the correlation between cultural production and cultural value