A comment on GuardianWitness – another tool on the roadmap to open journalism – and Making News – Radio 4’s programme on modern day news cycle
Lots of talk and excitement on the web today as the Guardian unveiled a new UGC platform – GuardianWitness – a downloadable app and desktop tool which allows users to easily submit photos, video and text direct to journalists.
Joanna Geary has written a post about the launch here and there’s some more detail on One Man and his Blog after Adam Tinworth interviewed Joanna about the project. First, a big well done I think to all those involved in the project – in particular members of the community team Joanna Geary, Laura Oliver Caroline Bannock and Philippa Law. As I hope to explain in this post – GuardianWitness looks set to make the process of users collaborating with journalists even easier.
As a community coordinator working in the Guardian’s buzzing newsroom for the last two years – sourcing content from readers whether it be photos of snow, views from Catalonians on independence or experiences of life under Thatcher. The Guardian has made a name in open journalism and crowdsourcing content and collaborating with readers on stories is part of this.
In my day to day role I am working with users and journalists to help tell better stories – whether it’s key users writing long posts on how the government’s changes to benefits are having a direct impact on their daily lives, or people submitting photos of the spring weather (or lack of it!) – there are different levels of engagement, incentivisation and contribution which the community team at the Guardian understand and lots of this experience has fed into GuardianWitness.
What I’m really excited about is that this is a new tool which should make this process of collaboration even easier – for both the user, journalist and community coordinator – I’ll be interested to see how this new tool is used and whether it works particularly well for breaking news stories where users are on the ground or longer term projects where users can give us a unique insight we wouldn’t get otherwise. As Philip Trippenbach points out – any new project like this comes with room for successes and potential for learning (I know this first hand from working on another experimental Guardian project – Guardian Local) so the first few months will really be a great chance to learn lots and build on this as it develops.
Making News – missing the point
It struck me as slightly ironic as I was walking to work today, listening to a Radio 4 programme on the news cycle, that GuardianWitness would launch while many journalists are still stumbling over the citizen journalist/social network news debate. I wouldn’t really recommend listening to the programme (according to the site there are two more programmes to come in this three-part series), but it’s safe to say that something like GuardianWitness will seem pretty revolutionary to some of those interviewed on the show.
The final remarks by presenter Steve Richards focused on modern news consumption being a battle against an overwhelming stream of content and shifting away from longform analysis and a shared news event. Certainly anyone who was on Twitter last night as the events in Boston unfolded couldn’t deny it was the type of shared news event he believes has died with print, and many will read longer analysis pieces later this weekend but at the time only wanting short snippets of news telling them what was happening.
What I was hoping to listen to in the programme was not a debate about whether citizen journalists are really journalists (can we move on from this now?) but a more indepth look at how people are influencing the news agenda through social channels and how online news cycles are changing the way news is set. That would’ve been much more interesting.