The European Journalism Centre (EJC) has released the Verification Handbook, the first ever guide for using user-generated content (UGC) during humanitarian emergencies.
Whether it is debunking images of ‘street sharks’ during Hurricane Sandy, or determining the veracity of videos that depict human rights abuses, reporting the right information is critical in shaping responses from the public and relief workers as a crisis unfolds.
By providing the exact methods needed to validate information, photos and videos shared by the crowd, the Verification Handbook forms an essential component of any organisation’s disaster preparedness plan.
The Verification Handbook draws on the experiences of practitioners from some of the world’s premier news and aid organisations, including BBC, Storyful, The Guardian, ABC, Buzzfeed UK, NHK, Poynter Institute, Digital First Media, the Tow Center, GigaOM, the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI), the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning, OpenStreetMap, Amnesty International, Circa, Meedan, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), WITNESS, the Dart Centre Europe, and Shabab Souria.
An online version of Verification Handbook is available for free at http://verificationhandbook.com, and a PDF, Kindle and Print version will be released on 7 February. An Arabic version of the Handbook will also be released soon thereafter.
The initiative is financed by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, as well as by the African Media Initiative (AMI), and supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), Humanity Road and many other organisations.
Citizen Journalism has always caused some stir: it’s hard to define, some academics and professionals do not consider it to be “real” journalism, yet it has been the source for breaking stories and mainstream media companies have been leeching on it. But Citizen Journalism – if there was ever one -has changed to something more complex and even harder to tackle: Social Journalism.
First of all, I have to make a distinction between the production of content and it’s distribution. Journalism is production, and now its distribution is made through new channels, mainly social networks. The issue here is that users add content while they distribute it, and that contribution can or can not be journalistic. For example, when I covered the Madeira floods, I used content I thought it had journalistic value, like videos and information about missing people, closed roads, isolated villages and overall damage. All the content was being created and shared online by common citizens on their social networks, like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And this is where the unstable paradigm of Citizen Journalism breaks to give way to Social Journalism.
It’s casual, whoever practices the journalistic act can do it only once in a lifetime.
It is mainly spontaneous, not dependant of an incumbency or professional obligation. It can be provoked by opportunity, personal need or social responsibility.
It is disorganized/not sistematic – this can happen in more or less degree, specializing in a job implies the learning of a method, that the citizen journalist may or may not master.
It is related to the surrounding reality of the citizen journalist, whether it is in a geographical level, emotional, cultural, therefore there is a certain amount of partiality (but like we’ve seen before, impartiality doesn’t not objectively exist in traditional journalism).
It doesn’t follow the mainstream news agenda. Apart from calamities, terrorist attacks, or other high profile events, Citizen Journalism tends to reflect realities, subjects, or perspectives absent from the mainstream media coverage.
It can be done by people who have a greater specific knowledge about a given subject than a journalist (which happens frequently, one can’t just know about everything).
The purpose is not any sort of remuneration but simply the act of information. (this can change)
Certain amateur new media users walk a similar path. They take photos and videos that instantly upload to the Internet, they use GPS software to track and broadcast their locations, and they tweet about everything they experience. The new media call these tech-savvy people “journalists,” but without the old connotation of the term. These so-called journalists do not investigate stories but merely broadcast experiences. They work as transmitters, publicizing their experiences with neither critique nor analysis. In doing so, they invite critique and analysis from other sources, which poses a problem.
“Experience broadcasting”. Now there’s a spot on concept. If you read the whole post, you’ll see she starts with the uploading of content to social networks, and then takes a turn to Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra, which in simple terms means we work with flawed representations of reality, and build new representations of it every time we relay our own view on it. This has always happened, and photography as one of the noble arts of journalism has always faced that problem: it captures in frame a slice of reality to show the core of that reality. Of course, many times it overlooked what was outside the frame for dramatic effect.
I remember thinking when I was a doing my first newsroom internship – in the last years of the last century – how little the audience gets from the actual reality of the news. A journalist has a backstage pass to reality, but it does not interfere (ideally) with the show, but neither gets the audience’s perspective. We see the actors before the makeup, the ropes and strings holding the set specifically built to maximize the visual effect for the audience, the marks on the floor and all. We do not report on that because that’s not the news. The show itself is, but we use that privileged position to account on it, and that was the power of the journalist: access.
But things changed and now reality and it’s slices and representations are in the middle of a virtual social arena, and the audience is part of it, surrounds it, builds and rebuilds that reality. When Haiti was hit by an earthquake six months ago most of the information was “broadcast” by people who lived it. They shared pictures, video, others outside the country managed to create maps with the information available, Google changed their own maps to show the degree of devastation. Google is not a news company, but knows the value and the need users had for that information. Google thought in “Social” terms, like the ones who kept tweeting and posting content on Facebook, and sharing those snippets of journalism-unmediated reality online.
So the change goes like this: with Citizen Journalism, users created content (in different levels of complexity and depth), shared it; in Social Journalism users broadcast experiences or echo other people’s experiences by adding their own content to them and re-distributing it, and in some cases, that can be classified as journalism. Corporate media is already tapping social networks for stories and they have to do so or they’ll miss out on a huge amount of stories. And if you think broadcasting experiences is not journalism, well, take a look at this:
We always had experiences broadcast by media, now many experiences are broadcast by users. The middle man (the journalist) is off the circuit between event and audience, but it’s not out of the loop. A huge part of journalist’s work these days is to validate the information, repurpose it for an audience that is willing to build on it, and create context. But context is for another post.
Though media companies still ask their audience to become “citizen journalists” and profit from user generated content (UGC), I believe that things are changing to something more interesting: UGC turns into Social Generated Content as users post their experiences in social networks and think only about their connected peers, and not the local newspaper or radio station. This new “ParaMedia” phenomenon includes Meta and Hyper Media, but most important of all, it defines what social media is all about: sharing.
And you can share your thoughts with the rest of us. You probably saw this on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, FriendFeed, your RSS reader of choice, so what do you make of it? Can personal snippets on reality be considered as journalism? Was journalism a corporate aggregator of reality slices? Where does journalism must evolve to deal with Social Generated Content?
Although i wasn’t able to go with my colleagues because i’m flat broke, the MA students went to London last week to visit the BBC newsroom and especially the UGC unit. Since i can’t tell you much about it, here are the videos Dan and Caroline made.
Apesar de não ter podido ir com os meus colegas porque estou assim nas lonas, os estudantes do MA foram a Londres a semana passada visitar a redacção da BBC em especial o departamento de UGC. Como não posso contar como foi, aqui ficam os videos que a Caroline e o Dan fizeram.
Iran Protests @ MaYoMo | Os protestos no Irão @ MaYoMo
There is a new website dedicated to user generated content. The name is MaYoMo, and basically pushes users videos into a map. MaYoMo has been around for a while, but they are launching today their new media platform and website.
At the same time they are calling all Journalism students and freelancers to show off their work in the platform and define it “as an outlet for students to post breaking local news stories in their own cities or regions, and news-analysis and commentary on broader global news and issues.“
According to the press release “access to all content on the MaYoMo web site is free. Students can easily create an account, and start contributing content and uploading photos, video, and other media assets — from a variety of devices, including video-enabled phones.” But it has a shared advertising revenue model, that creates “income opportunities for professional and student journalists around the world.“
Besides the geolocation options, there is another interesting feature: the time window selection, since we can select videos within a determined period of time, which is good if you’re interested in specific ongoing events like the riots in Iran two months ago.
Há um novo site dedicado a conteúdos criados por utilizadores. O nome é MaYoMo, e basicamente coloca videos num mapa. O MaYoMo já existe há algum tempo, mas lançam hoje a sua nova plataforma de media e o seu site renovado.
Ao mesmo tempo eles apelam aos estudantes de Jornalismo e freelancers para mostrarem o seu trabalho na plataforma e definem-na “como uma montra para estudantes mostrarem notícias de última hora sobre as suas próprias cidades ou regiões, e análises noticiosas e comentários em assuntos e notícias globais“.
De acordo com o press-release “o acesso a todos os conteúdos no site do MaYoMo é grátis. Os estudantes podem facilmente criar uma conta e começar a contribuir com conteúdos e colocar fotos, videos e outros formatos de media – a partir de uma variedade de dispositivos como telefones com video.” Mas tem um modelo de partilha de recietas de publicidade, que cria “possibilidades de receita para conteúdos de profissionais e estudantes do mundo inteiro.“
Para além do mapa, existe outra opção interessante: a janela temporal, já que podemos escolher videos dentro de um determinado período de tempo, o que ajuda se estivermos à procura de acontecimentos específicos que se desenrolaram por alguns dias, como as manifestações no Irão há dois meses atrás.