Crowdsourcing the news – gathering information from anyone who chooses to contribute – has some obvious possibilities and problems, starting with:
- more information from more sources
- empowering people to share their knowledge
- opportunity for participation by people whose voices are excluded by traditional media
- misinformation, and lack of fact-checking
- the usual suspects – well-funded propaganda machines – can grab a large part in process
- people with grudges or political agendas can use platform for attack
Wikipedia, the prime example of crowdsourcing, recognizes these problems:
It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this. We work hard to keep the ratio of the greatest to the worst as high as possible, of course, and to find helpful ways to tell you in what state an article currently is. Even at its best, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with all the limitations that entails. It is not a primary source.
More journalism organizations, from legacy mainstream media to on-line, new media projects, are using different kinds of crowdsourcing. Some reporters use their social media networks, such as Twitter or Facebook, to find information and/or sources for stories. Some organizations formalize the process, as MPR has done in its “Public Insight Network.”
At TC Daily Planet, we invite people into the journalism project in a variety of ways, through Forum articles, our comment sections, Planet Café’s invitation to participate as articles are written, or to write one of the articles listed in the Assignment Desk. We publish original TC Daily Planet articles only after they have been edited, and we maintain high standards for accuracy. On the other hand, Free Speech Zone articles are published without editing.
At SXSW, a panel on crowdsourcing “outlined what can make a crowdsourced project work and what can make it fall apart.” Poynter’s Steve Myers concluded that crowdsourcing should
- Benefit people’s reputation (either within or outside the project)
- Build relationships
- Don’t waste resources or time
- Make the terms of participation clear
We try to make terms of participation clear by publishing our editorial guidelines and information for freelance writers. We hope to build reputations and relationships with our writers’ groups and other opportunities for networking and interaction.