Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Could Crowdsourcing Work Here?

There's an interesting article up this morning on the Annenberg School for Communication's Online Journalism Review on the subject of "crowdsourcing."

In A journalist's guide to crowdsourcing, Robert Niles defines crowdsourcing as using the web to organize the public at large as another source of information for a news organisation.
Crowdsourcing, in journalism, is the use of a large group of readers to report a news story. It differs from traditional reporting in that the information collected is gathered not manually, by a reporter or team of reporters, but through some automated agent, such as a website.

Stripped to its core, though, it's still just another way of reporting, one that will stand along the traditional "big three" of interviews, observation and examining documents.
There are drawbacks, and cautions, and plenty of effort needed to make it work, but the idea is one that I think we've all been moving towards, if not particularly smoothly or directly, for some time.

This article helped me bring into focus thoughts I've been having lately about two related phenomenons in Delaware. One has been the growth of an increasingly self-aware Delaware Blogging Community. The other has been the News Journal's so far uneven Reader Comments system.

Both show the energy and interest that exists among Delawareans about the news and issues of the state. Both also, however, show the tendency of "regular folks" to give-in to their prejudices and preconceived ideas.

Obviously this is worse among an unfortunate minority of the commenting readers on the News Journal site, but Delaware's bloggers also can fall into bad habits and habitual rants. The bloggers tend to be a bit more disciplined in their writing and the community that has grown up among the regular bloggers has started to act as a form of editorial board. But we could do better.

A news organization's "crowdsourcing" could be another facet of the work that we've been doing. If properly designed, and maintained, and edited, it could add many more voices to the mix.

And that might be a very good thing.

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