Duke-newsroomcrowds

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This is an afternoon session at the Duke Next Newsroom seminar in Durham, N.C. These notes are by Bill Densmore of a breakout called by John Keefe of WNYC radio in New York City. he's talking about "How can we harness the power of crowds in the newsroom?"

There were nine other people in the session and there's an audio podcast you can access from HERE.

You can watch a video stream of this session:
AT THIS ADDRESS

Bronze is where people contribute individual works.

Silver is where people contribute to a project.

third example.

fourth example -- refueling planes.

Examples of crowdsourcing:

  • Noticed three aircraft refueling -- the crowd figured out these plans were registered to shell companies, eventually linked by the Washington Post to the rendition controversy.

TPM Muckracker -- the U.S. attorneys resigning identified by the crowd.


Dan Barcomb senior editor at the N&O. examples: Came up with mascot names for the drought awareness campaign.

They also have a section on Sunday called cue. Candidates are criss crossing the state. If you have questions for the candidates, what are they. The've gotten a lot of feedback on that. They have asked the candidates questions from the people who submitted them. They asked the woman's question. "She was blown away. She said she just never felt so connected to the process."

Third example: Speed unlimited. There is no traffic enforcement. The asked people what was your experience in court, and also asked them to document what it was like when you went out and drove the speed limit. When they did the four-page story, they ran the citizen part with mug shots. "We had good stuff but we really didn't have it from the citizen level. And it really legitimized in the newsroom the sort of knocking down of that fourth wall . . . and it's really connected people to the process."

Keefe: There is a reward for people in feeling like they are part of finding out about something before anybody else. One thing they did was a map on prices of food items in New York neighborhoods. They found that some corner stores were charging higher than the legal limit for milk.

They did a story on how many SUVs are on your block. They didn't discover anything actionable, but it was interesting.

Leonard Witt: Talks about the national bird count as an age-old example of crowdsourcing.

But Jay Rosen found out with AssignmentZero that people didn't want to do a major investigative crowdsourcing workup story. But on the other hand, they did 80 interviews. "Citizens will only do what they want to do, when they want to do it on their own time."


Keefe: Radio listeners tend to be more willing to do something at the request of an anchorperson who they trust.

Keefe: Something to remember -- the power of crowds is not always for the good. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's the power of the mob.

Below from: Jane Pope, Univ. of Tennessee:

A college example: Student acted out in a class but made movements implying gestures. The students went out and talked about it on Facebook. The students at the campus newspaper saw it and the name of the person is being shared with everybody. It turns up, the newspaper pursues it, and already the university is not wanting this person to be discussed, because of privacy issues. The newspaper eventually did a story; they started going to people who had information to provide it and they wouldn't give it out. They got confirmation there some classes canceled that the student was supposed to be in. It took two weeks to put the story together. The newspaper was condemned by the administration for going into this. But the students who were involved had alrady discussed int o nthe web two weeks before.

Keefe: other examples?

another speaker, John North, from the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel

As to allowing comments on stories -- They let the comment field on the story online. it has taken on a life of its own. "We look at them -- and of course there is a lot of the mob mentality . . . somebody throws a [verbal] bomb and away we go. But you also see interesting tidbits of information."

When Brad Renfrow died in L.A., his half-sister in Knoxville pops up with a comment. "It's way down in the comments but it's there. And it's an interesting resource. And it leads you to different information."

They had a shooting outside of a Hooters restaurant. He shot someone in the restaurant and then disappeared for 36 hours. They posted info about the 1 a.m. shooting and after posting the story, there were comments about oh my God. Then someone who was a mother of someone in the restaurant at the time of the shooting weighed in with comments about what her son experienced. They decided to go find the mother. They sent an email to the mother and asked, "Can we talk to you." And she said yes. So we ended up interviewing her.

With comments, they used to die at the end of the news cycle. Now they are carrying them over, letting them live longer.


Len Witt of Kennesaw State University talks about Public Insight Journalism.

Keefe: Talking on the air to people who contribute -- it's a lot of people, but a very well understood demographic listening to public radio. If WNYC only uses that group for sourcing, then they become an echo chamber of people who are well educated and high income.

Witt: How do you get the unheard voices heard?

Kara Andrade: That gets into mobile technology. There is a lot to do with that in terms of journalism.

Dan Barcomb: People who won't post in text will do so with photos. And so they have thousands and thousands of photos.

Keefe: Is there something that can be gleaned from an army of photographs that is not just artistic of sharing? You could imagine catching people blowing red lights or things which happen too close to schools. There is UTube guy who films traffic cops breaking traffic laws.

Linda Negro, Evansville Courier:

Lewis Friedland at Madison Commons in Madison has gone into the community and trained people in citizen media. They are training the people not just to give your opinion but the power of presenting journalism in that you present both sides or presenting an issues with the facts.


At WNCN, the network affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., a MediaGeneral outlet. They are training citizens to do streaming video.