Voluntary Standards in Civic Media?

From the present events unfurling in Iran and the Mumbai atrocity of November 2008 , to a local coffee shop being vandalised in a seaside town – civic media is proving that it does have a vital and relevant role in the delivery of robust journalism. We just have to get organised better.

It has always astounded me that the professional news industry has, on the whole, shunned the very idea that people can contribute to the news gathering and sharing agenda. This “head in the sand” and ever so slightly arrogant attitude is both damaging and elitist.

However, it goes without saying that whatever collaborative models are inevitably created, they must strive for quality. And by that I don’t mean every single story has to be a Pulitzer winner (just take a look through your local rag and you’ll see that’s hardly the case right now).

No. I mean those who are exploring civic media Рfrom the professionals to the amateurs Рshould organise themselves and work together to  question the idea of an industry-wide voluntary code of conduct.

We at indiconews.com believe there should be an open discussion about this – in fact we have started discussion on our site and call for journalists, academics, competitors, established news organisations and people to contribute – to share their views, ideas and relevant experience.

David Cohen’s recent post on MediaShift Idea Lab touches upon a similar development in the tightening of editorial standards on similar sites such as indiconews.com, interviewing Rachel Stern of citizen journalism site Groundreport.

As opportunities for collaboration emerge, the pro-am model of news gathering and dissemination must be explored and scrutinised.

So please add your voice to the debate – either at David Cohen’s blog or at indiconews.com.

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We’re off to the Media Standards Trust news innovation “unconference”

The upcoming Media Standards Trust News Innovation “Unconference” on July 10 should be a great opportunity for journalists, developers and innovators to start talking about ideas and solutions for the news industry.

Martin Moore of the MST said in the Guardian: “”Everyone is fixated by doom and gloom around print. We wanted to start to get together people who are doing interesting things and get journalists and developers together.”

And about time too. There are some fantastic things going on “out there” and the fact that more people than ever are signing up to journalist courses is proof that there is a passion and hunger for journalism.

True, the news industry landscape isn’t the same as it was just five years ago – but change is being seen in so many other parts of or lives too. After all it’s not just print news that is having to adjust and adapt to this brave new world; the impact of economics and technology is being felt everywhere, from local shops to the city council.

However, technology – or more precisely people’s access to and engagement with it – means the “journalism” rule books are being ripped up. And for the first time ever, we the people can have a say on how they’re re-written, from bloggers to civic media sites, students to established news outlets, and mash-ups to aps. Who knows, maybe the rule books will never be re-written, just adapted and tweeked in true beta style.

But one thing is clear: we’re never going to go back to the heady days of the mighty printing empires, (just as the car industry will never see the days of Henry Ford ever again).

Yes, we need to look at ways of creating robust news delivery, make sure investigative journalism is supported, and try to avoid “churnalism” (which is rife in “professional” journalism as it is). We need to ensure our elective representatives are kept in check, that injustice is exposed, and that we can all absorb and engage with news in a meaningful way. We also need to ensure those without access to the mighty mobile or web (and there are millions upon millions out there) can still engage in the news process. In short, we need to be able to trust our news – but also be confident to ask and face tough questions without blinkered hysteria.

So instead of shouting each other down, I believe this “unconference” will provide people with the platform and opportunity to actually create some real solutions – or at least start the process and think a bit more out of the box.

On July 10 let’s not be scared. Let’s be innovators.

Indiconews.com: a different reporting perspective

Welcome to the first indiconews.com blog post.

For those of you who don’t know about us, we’re a UK-based fledgling global civic media site.

A true bootstrapped start-up (we’re 100% self funded), we’re working hard to engage various sectors, empowering them to participate in the news agenda as contributors, collaborators and news ‘definers’ as opposed to just observers.

When I meet with people to explain indiconews.com, I often use the term 3D news – and by that I don’t mean you don a pair of two-tone glasses and settle in front of your PC for some 50’s-style news reel film.

3D news is this: you not only know the details of the past news (the who, what, when, where’s etc) but also the why’s and what happens next.

Our position always starts from you, the users perspective; you have told us how you want to engage with the site on different levels – be it as reporters, assigners, commentators, eyewitnesses, interviewees or simply readers. We also have created a site where you can engage with news on as targeted or wide scope as you want – be it via following specific reporters, categories or location-based news… or a combination of all three.

Indiconews.com allows you to not only report but also set assignments and where appropriate, to connect stories together – link assignments with previous articles or interviews (infact our ‘interview me’ service matches expert insight with reporter’s questions), build layers to their story, create depth and help the end-user understand the wider impact.

Organizing this has been tricky and by no means suggest we have created the final product (we are Beta after all).

However, we are trying new approaches and attempting to think out of the box. In fact, sites like ours are like any new fashion, arts or music scene; we arrange tracks in new an interesting ways and see what comes out of the mix. In time perhaps the ‘tracks’ that work might be picked up by you the user and mashed up into something new.

The site is also proof that innovation is alive and kicking.

Site such as ours and other similar start-ups are not waiting to be asked by established media organisations to come up with potential road maps on how to engage the user in the news agenda. We’re getting on with it. Some of us will succeed, some will not – but we hope we will all learn and like true innovators, take a different news perspective. So take a deep breath, and find your voice at http://www.indiconews.com.