On being a citizen reporter: an international perspective, part VII

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This was a presentation by Michael Weiss, co-founder of Scoop.co.il, at the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters’ Forum held in Seoul, Korea, on July 15. Scoop is the first Israeli citizen journalism site. OhmyNews is one of the first and largest International Web sites for citizen journalism, the same citizen-driven content that fuels the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Michael Weiss, co-founder of Scoop.co.il (Israel)

This is Michael’s second year at this conference. Last year he was the only Israeli, now there are three … he quipped that he might be presenting in Hebrew next year! [Note: Scoop is published entirely in Hebrew; there is no English version yet.]

Scoop is about vision, and vision is the tool for making change. Though they began operations just in January of this year he believes that citizen journalism in Israel can add significantly to the journalist scene.

Israel has 7 million people, just a third of Seoul’s population. 60 percent of Internet users in Israel read online news on a daily basis and there are 3.6 million Internet users daily. They found that 45 percent of Internet users visit 2-3 professional news sites a day, mostly to compare information. So there is an opportunity for citizen journalism in Isreal to grow and to have an impact.

Michael believes there is a place for user-generated content. Yes, there is competition but he and his co-creators of the site thought that people would want to hear what “regular” people have to say. There were several difficulties in starting up, including competition from legacy media. The three largest news sources in Israel also had an Internet presence. But he also knew the OhmyNews’ success was real and could indicate a blueprint to follow, not only in technological standards but in journalistic ones.

Launching Scoop began with their choosing between the many bloggers that exist in Israel. They began here because these people have the minimal skills, passion and time to post stories. They sent out personal invitations to bloggers and the response was overwhelming. Their first edition started with an online introduction page and an registration form to contribute writings. They also put up posters in journalism offices to entice professionals to participate. By January 15 they had 150 reporters ready to write.

What are they offering citizen reporters? Primarily a place of influence. People will read you, people will know you. They give away gifts as incentives for articles. These range from T-shirts to webcams to yearly subscriptions—ironically—for a daily newspaper.

On their site they reserve a space called “the reporter zone”. The reporter zone is a special section reserved just for registered reporters to compare techniques, ask questions, and share experiences.

News is organized by region so, for example, you can search just for northern Israel news. It is also organized by type of news and most popular news. Reader views indicates popularity and is another way to search for news on their site.

Readers can also influence the ranking of the articles through rating an article’s popularity. They list the ten most highly rated articles. Articles can stay up on the list only seven days. The rankings and recommendations of readers are very important to them.

Reassurance that reporters are who they say they are and accountability for accuracy of content are also very important to Scoop. Scoop requires detailed registration and part of their pre-activation process includes a phone call by an editor to the prospective reporter.

Cross-checks on stories are run by editors to assure accuracy of third-party responses. They want to ensure that what’s being posted is really true and accurate. They then do a keyword check in Google to make sure that the article wasn’t posted through other sources then just repeated with a new reporter byline.

What’s new? ScoopTV will be coming soon. It is a news-orented video channel where users and reporters can send video clips and broadcast personal shows. Rankit! is a user-generated ranking module they will employ anything and everyone is rank-able. Scoop International will also begin soon, exposing Scoop’s stories to the world and giving them a more international audience (i.e. an English edition).

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