Journalism 2.0
How to survive and thrive in the digital age

This blog is a companion to the book I have written. It will teach current (and future) journalists the skills they need to do better journalism with the help of digital technology. More information about the book.


Crowdsourcing vs. distributed reporting - is there a difference?

Crowdsourcing has been in the news a lot lately, especially with Gannett’s plans to base its next generation newsroom structure in part on the concept. I’ve also read about distributed reporting, open source reporting and collaborative reporting.

Is there any difference between these terms?

For my money, distributed reporting relates to a specific and fixed-time project, answering a specific question. And by its nature, distributed reporting inherently includes some aspect of journalism since it is “reporting.” Asking readers about voting irregularities, for example, would be a form of distributed reporting since the need was reporting for a timely news story. For an example from the Cincinnati Enquirer, go here.

Crowdsourcing, meanwhile, is more like outsourcing, the term from which it was born. It aims to harness the power of community on a continuing basis to improve a service or information base. When we built an online map plotting all the places in our coverage area to go for free wireless Internet access, The News Tribune then asked the public to submit locations that we missed or that have since opened. We also invited them to comment on the locations and add photos, enhancing the original service. Dozens of readers have contributed in the past six months.

The concept of crowdsourcing might seem to lend itself especially well to grass-roots organizations and projects. But some of the most notable examples of crowdsourcing have come from some very big companies, including Proctor & Gamble, and Google. Check it out:

—Proctor & Gamble launched a Web site called InnoCentive offering some serious cash rewards to some 90,000 freelance scientists who can solve problems that the company’s 9,000 scientists can’t. It now works with other companies as a sort of crowdsourcing broker, allowing them to use the site to solve problems of their own.

— describes its Mechanical Turk project as “Artificial Artificial Intelligence.” It pays people to complete tasks that people do better than computers, such as identifying subjects in photographs and translating text. This is the opposite of the InnoCentive project. The pay is low and the tasks can be done by anyone. People need to perform a high volume of tasks to make any real money, but the tasks are so simple that some 10,000 people have registered to “turk.”

—Google doesn’t pay people to participate in its Image Labeler program, but it make the exercise so fun that it can be addicting. The goal is to improve the quality of Google’s Image search. Over a 90-second period, you are shown random images and asked to provide as many labels as possible. You “play” with another random user and when the two of you agree on a label, the software gets smarter.

Let me know if you see these emerging concepts differently.

Posted by MarkBriggs on Wednesday, November 15, 2006
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If you had $1,000 ...

Not quite as fun as the BNL song with seven figures, but in today’s newsroom, being able to spend one large is still pretty exciting. If it came to you, what would you do with the money? No junkets allowed, though. Just tools.

Would you buy:

- 10 audio recorders for news reporters
- one high-quality video camera
- 3 low-end video cameras
- 5 digital cameras
- some mix of these?
- or something totally different?

We had this discussion this week in our newsroom in Tacoma and there was very little agreement on which way to go (should $1,000 drop into your collective lap).

What would you do with the money?

Posted by MarkBriggs on Friday, November 10, 2006
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Spreadsheets and storing data

In the digital age, it still amazes me how many reporters rely on a Rolodex with hand-written index cards for their contacts. This information, and all information a journalist collects, should be stored digitally in Excel or another spreadsheet program in as many fields as possible.

If you know someone who does this well, I’d love to contact them. I’m looking for practical examples of storing data digitally - the kind of information a reporter routinely collects - to build a convincing case that converting to digital will be worth the trouble. Please post a comment or {encode="" title="send me an email"} if you have a good example or have seen tips or information on this topic.

Posted by MarkBriggs on Saturday, November 04, 2006
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How digital is your life?

One of the messages I will hope to communicate is just how quickly people are adopting mobile technology and making it work for their media and news needs. I’m talking iPods, Blackberries, Treos and even regular cell phones here. Here’s a Reuters story I found on CNET about ABC News producing a special 15-minute broaddcast for web and vodcasting.

Each of the networks has carved out a news presence on the Web. NBC News was the first among the Big Three, putting “NBC Nightly News” onto the Web and recently adding the “Early Nightly” video blog. “CBS Evening News” is simulcast on the Web.

But only ABC News creates a 15-minute daily newscast, separate from “ABC World News” though often using the same anchor, Charles Gibson. “World News Webcast” airs live at 3 p.m. ET on and the ABC News Now digital channel. It’s available for downloading on iTunes a little more than an hour later and it’s popular: In September, there were 5.2 million downloads via and iTunes, according to ABC. So far this month, there’s been 5.2 million.

Have you seen any news stories like this? Or maybe you can share your own experience with your own gadget, or one that’s on your wish list? {encode="" title="Send me a note"} or post a comment, please. While I know there is a lot going on in this space, I’m struggling to find empirical data or specific examples to support my assumptions.

Posted by MarkBriggs on Wednesday, November 01, 2006
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J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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