Crowdsourcing + investigative journalism = ? (help make it happen)

Following my research into investigative journalism I’ve been thinking about its future. One path clearly lies in tools of crowdsourcing and community being applied to local investigative journalism. It’s not a new idea, but it’s not happening nearly enough. So here’s the twist I’ve put on it as I seek to get funding to test it out: hand over the agenda to your public, and you have a potentially bigger, and more committed, workforce.

The idea – which I imaginatively called ‘Citizen Investigation’ – is through to the second round of bidding for Knight News Foundation funding (along with 5W+H). Here is how I described it:

“Citizens identify the stories they want investigating, vote on a ‘winner’, then pursue the story with editorial support from professional journalists and community managers.

“Addressing the lack of investigative journalism in mainstream media, as well as issues of public engagement with the news, this project seeks to hand over the editorial agenda to the public, giving them ownership of the story and therefore increased motivation to pursue it.

“In the model, a website allows users to propose a story/issue they would like investigated, with a community manager seeking out offline or otherwise disengaged members of the community for additional proposals. Proposals can be made in any form, but video is encouraged, and a facility will exist to upload directly from mobile phone. This will then be seeded on YouTube and other social media.

“A regular vote decides which story is pursued, and the project community work together to gather and analyse information through blogs, wikis, databases, and repositories of raw material such as audio, video and documents. Because ‘your’ story could be next (the leaderboard is public), it is hoped a wider community will contribute. A ‘karma’ points system will help encourage this behaviour, while alerts help keep contributors in the loop and engaged.

“Central to the process is the editorial support provided by professional journalists, who will work with community members to identify sources, filter information, provide journalistic training, address legal issues and assist in structuring resulting stories. This also seeks to provide the ‘self-actualisation’ that is often identified as a key ingredient of successful citizen operations.

“Examples such as the Florida News-Press’s investigation of utility rates have already demonstrated how such a crowdsourcing approach can empower and engage an otherwise disinterested community, while the pet food poisoning investigation carried out by blogs this year demonstrates how important stories can be overlooked by mainstream media but taken on by a committed body of people.”

I’d welcome any help that anyone can provide. Here are some particular areas that I’d welcome support on:

  1. Help improve the proposal document by adding information or improving the argument (it’s a wiki)
  2. Point out similar projects or people we could contact for advice
  3. Volunteer your own skills, experience or contacts – technical, journalistic, organisational, community, etc.
  4. Or just help improve the idea – how could it be better? What flaws does it have? What gaps?
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4 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing + investigative journalism = ? (help make it happen)

  1. Craig McGill

    One slight problem with this is the idea of putting, for example, the top five ideas for investigating out to the readers to vote on. Newspapers are notoriously competitive as you know, so there would be nothing to stop other papers stealing all five ideas and going and chasing them up.

    Reply
  2. Paul Bradshaw

    It would be great if they did, and perhaps that would be a useful result of the service. The problem behind this is the lack of resources for newspapers and investigative journalism, so if they have the resources, fine, we can pick another issue. If not, however, the community can chase it, or the newspaper can choose to work with them.

    Reply
  3. Berthold

    educational post here, i don’t like to write and misuse my time when i surf simply because the responses are dumb or dim-witted. i will tell this website has smart folks on this topic. this can be as a result of of the moderator keeps the great comments on. thanks.

    Reply

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