Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Citizen Journalism: Assignment Zero

I've been working through this exercise on tagging created by Beth Kanter. The next to the last step of the exercise was to walk through people's tags using pivot browsing:
The metaphor that comes to mind for pivot browsing is walking in the forests or some other open space, stopping to smell the pine, taking a break. You get the lay of the land as you walk around. The point is not just the destination, the point is the journey itself.

This was such a refreshing exercise. Not that I don't spend a ton of time online doing whatever, but it was almost like I needed permission to just click around. I've been perhaps a tad too focused on my subscriptions and the links that my network brings me.

While I was clicking around I came across a bookmark to Assignment Zero provided by Beth Kanter.

Assignment Zero is: Inspired by the open-source movement, this is an attempt to bring journalists together with people in the public who can help cover a story. It's a collaboration among NewAssignment.Net, Wired, and those who choose to participate.

The investigation takes place in the open, not behind newsroom walls. Participation is voluntary; contributors are welcome from across the Web. The people getting, telling and vetting the story are a mix of professional journalists and members of the public -- also known as citizen journalists. This is a model I describe as "pro-am."

The "ams" are simply people getting together on their own time to contribute to a project in journalism that for their own reasons they support. The "pros" are journalists guiding and editing the story, setting standards, overseeing fact-checking, and publishing a final version.

This sounds very cool. I've done a bit of writing for Wikinews and found it enjoyable, but it was more like "rewriting" and aggregrating than reporting. There was also the built-in lag that was to be expected. Where it certainly was possible to do original work it always seemed like a daunting task.

Assignment Zero on the other hand looks very interesting. Here, people are working on doing original work with the help of professionals. They focus on a primary story, and then work together to write it. I also like the idea of being able to start small and wade in:

Have five minutes? Or five hours? Like to research, write, or conduct interviews? Do you have prior journalism experience or none at all? Any way you dice it, we can use your help.

I have to admit that I am intrigued by the whole idea of citizen journalism. I like the emphasis on community and working together. So I registered. I'll keep you posted on how it works. Better yet, come join the effort and experience it yourself.


Beth Kanter said...

I joined the effort. And, funny, got an email requesting intros to people they wanted to interview. And, guess what - I knew one of the people. So it was satisfying to assist. Looks like an interesting project.

Great participation today!

Kevin Gamble said...

I poked around a bit more this morning. It's pretty cool. I'm going to try to pick a good place to help.