Facebook page aims to help find journalists who’ve dropped off the map

Sean Howe traces the start of his Committee to Detect Journalists page to his quest to locate Tom Burke, who once wrote for Rolling Stone, Esquire and other publications. He and Grantland writer Alex Pappademas bought Burke’s book and spent two or three years “trying to figure out what happened to him,” Howe said in a phone call with Poynter.

“It’s really surprising that people whose names are out there and Google-able, how hard it can be to find out what happened to them.” Howe’s new Facebook page aims to solve that problem through crowdsourcing: Surely someone knows what happened to some of these folks, he reckons. But for it to work, he’ll need a lot more people to join — currently 35 people have liked the page. Read more


Columbia Journalism School professor wants to crowdsource longform journalism publishing

Capital New York | Folio
The resurgence of longform publishing has a new ally in a Kickstarter-based project spearheaded by Columbia Journalism School professor Michael Shapiro. The big difference in Shapiro’s model? No editors.

The Big Roundtable, which is more than halfway to its startup goal of $5,000 only two days into its campaign, promises to provide digital distribution to story pitches that can’t find outlets via traditional print publishers. The project plans to provide 1,000-word excerpts to a committee of readers, which will then read the story and decide if it’s worthy of being distributed via email. The stories will be sent to another group of readers, repeating the process to determine if it’s a successful selection. The story will then be sold to readers for $1 a copy.

According to the Kickstarter listing, this project, which includes Columbia-connected journos Mike Hoyt, Anna Hiatt, Rashmi Raman and Anna Codrea-Rado, will free writers “from the constraints of convention in telling their stories and from the commercial needs of editors and publishers, who determine what tales get told.” Read more

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Tips on social media verification and online corrections

Earlier this week I had a great chat about online verification and corrections with of You can listen to our talk in this podcast published today. McAthy also interviewed four other people to gather insight:

  • Claire Wardle, director of development and integration, Storyful
  • Malachy Browne, news editor, Storyful
  • Fergus Bell, senior producer and UGC lead, Associated Press
  • Paul Bradshaw, course leader of online journalism MA at Birmingham City University, visiting professor at City University London and publisher of Online Journalism Blog and HelpMeInvestigate

The podcast, which you can play below, offers an excellent collection of tips and advice for social media verification and online corrections. You can also listen to the second podcast on this page to hear me talk a bit more about crowdsourced verification.

Related: How to verify, and when to publish, news accounts posted on social media | Social media editor role expands to fighting misinformation Read more


Stumped New York Times reporter crowdsources ID of a rare bomb

The New York Times
Senior writer C.J. Chivers (a former Marine) knows his way around battlefield munitions, but for six months he and other experts have been stumped trying to identify an unusual cluster bomb found in Libya. So he posted photos and a backstory on the “At War” blog, asking, “Can you help?” Chivers is not worried about losing a scoop:

“As for competition from any other news organizations or Web sites, well, in this case there is none. This is about trying to get it right, so that the world will know more about who provided the Qaddafi government its arms, and when, and so that those who have to clear these DPICM’s will know more of their technical characteristics. At War is collegial. If another site takes on this job and figures this out, that is a very good thing. Let us know, and we will follow you and credit you here.”

Earlier: Chivers on returning from a war zone Read more


Want to be a source? Sign up here, says Calgary Herald

Calgary Herald
Digital engagement editor Tom Babin introduces a new system — called Be a Source — that enables potential sources to register with the newspaper. Think of it as “metacrowdsourcing,” applying crowdsourcing to sourcing itself rather than an individual reporting project.

We’re asking Calgarians to tell us about the ideas and issues for which they have special insight, knowledge or passion. Then, when the issues come up in the news, we will be better able to present those perspectives in our news stories.

You don’t need a Ph.D to make a contribution. Your area of expertise could be as simple as life in your neighbourhood. Perhaps you have a hobby that you think offers a unique perspective. Maybe your job makes you an expert in a specific field, or you know first-hand the challenges of the elderly-care system, or you struggle with a little-known heath condition, or are the victim of a crime.

Read more

Spot.Us becomes part of Public Insight Network

DigiDave | American Public Media
American Public Media has acquired Spot.Us and will integrate it with its crowdsourcing platform Public Insight Network. The two operations “create a media that is more responsive and responsible to the public’s needs,” writes Spot.Us founder David Cohn on his blog.

Cohn tells me by email that at some point, journalists working on a single story could utilize both the crowdfunding and crowdsourcing parts of the operation:

Some people prefer to donate talent, others prefer to donate funds. If a single organization used both PIN/Spot (which will become easier as the two merge at a technical level) they could do create a relationship with the audience that includes both possibilities. We did one early example of this at Spot.Us. We raised funds for an Oakland Tribune reporter to cover potholes in oakland. The money went to the freelancer to do the reporting. But we also got 15 bikers together and we biked in all different directions in Oakland and created a map of the worst potholes we could find (the bikers were donating talent).

Read more

ProPublica’s DocDiver helps users collaborate in document-based investigations

A ProPublica reporting project published today turns primary source documents into a platform for crowdsourcing and reader collaboration.

Readers’ findings are displayed in a sidebar next to the relevant portion of the document.

The investigative reporting nonprofit built a tool called DocDiver, a plugin for DocumentCloud that creates an annotation layer on top of document pages. Readers can make notes on the document, and journalists and other readers can see those notes threaded in a sidebar.

“The tool enables much closer collaboration between journalists and their readers in real time,” said Amanda Michel, ProPublica’s director of distributed reporting (and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board). In this case, it supplements reporter Paul Kiel’s latest report on the failed oversight of mortgage lenders by inviting people to annotate three government audits of GMAC.

Of course, many news organizations have taken to posting source documents online. DocumentCloud’s built-in annotation tool enables journalists to annotate the documents they upload. Read more


Earthquake sent millions to social networks, where news orgs were ready to meet them

When a 5.8-magnitude earthquake rattled the east coast on Tuesday, Americans flooded social networks with updates and major news organizations were there to meet them with crowdsourcing efforts.

[View the story "The earthquake on social networks" on Storify] Read more


This is an aggregation of a story on crowdsourcing that was crowdsourced

Fast Company
When pitched to do a story on Servio, a company that crowdsources tasks for its clients, Adam Penenberg decided to — wait for it — crowdsource the reporting and writing. He assigned 20 questions to Servio workers and even asked a Servio freelancer to contact media advisers (including Poynter’s Kelly McBride) to see if this would be considered unethical. (The answer: not if he tried to account for bias and was upfront with his readers about what he was doing.) Penenberg writes that he asked for “boilerplate” material, such as interviewing the founders and freelancers, checking out the company’s revenue and assessing the competition. How did they do?

Basic facts were accurate; anything that required interpretation, however, was ripe for abuse. They simply avoided the questions I submitted that asked them to describe the company’s greatest weaknesses and to critique its competitors, and I never did find out what the company’s revenues were.

Read more

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