Is Reddit / crowd sourcing information an interesting project? Yes, I think it has some value in terms of understanding what information is out there. Unfortunately, that does not tell you anything about the value of the information itself. There has to be a criteria used for verifying content, and I do not see most Reddit or crowd sourcing projects using criteria that meets editorial standards, most of the time.
With that said - with editorial direction - crowd sourcing can be phenomenally useful. I'd like to see a combination of both!
I also don't see that many major news orgs saying it has to be an either/or - ie, rely on our own people or people online. There's good and bad to both, and every story is different. You use whatever method is best at getting at the heart of the story.
No one should accept a witch-hunt mentality or mob rule -- from the media or from anyone else.
On the theme of social and crowdsourcing, I'd like to talk about the platforms themselves.
Andy, in your book you mention a deleted YouTube channel that was reinstated after you investigated its closure. At a Canadian Journalism Foundation panel discussion earlier this year, fellow panelist Mathew Ingram noted one of the weaknesses of social media like Twitter: It's a platform owned by a company, a private corporation. I’d like to talk about the fact that platforms aren’t impenetrable entities, and the content produced on them won’t necessarily last forever, and content can be deleted.
Do either of you feel you’ve locked yourself into a platform? Which platforms do you trust, and why do you trust them?
I have thought a lot about the question of being loyal to platforms. I'm concerned because there is no reason a private / publicly-traded company should adhere to standards of sharing accurate information if it isn't in their financial interest to do so. I'm suspicious. I say, trust platforms when you trust the companies.
I appreciate Twitter's approach to content: you own your tweets... and you are responsible for the content in them.
I will add that platforms often change - always be on the lookout for new ones.
There are always tradeoffs when using a platform you can't fully control. For example, blip.tv is taking a lot of heat for unilaterally shutting down accounts of video bloggers that've used them for years b/c they're taking their business model in another direction. (full disclosure: that includes me). Right now I'm trying to piece back together nearly a decade of videos I posted there. Or take Topsy getting bought by Apple. They're no longer taking new customers, and they're a great tool for mining twitter data. So all it takes is a change in a business plan to cause certain content or tools to go away. You just never know.
So in short, "trust" is relative when you're dealing with any entity that's trying to run a business rather than be something like The Internet Archive.
@Andy Topsy is a great example. A part of me assumes that most small platform companies are looking for acquisition by larger platforms.
Well, I can't speak for any of them, but sure, there's a lot of volatility in the social space. Something here today may be gone tomorrow.
There's an ebb and flow in the news cycle based on a variety of factors; multiple big stories playing out at once; story fatigue; the high cost of covering an overseas story, etc. Do you remember what everyone was talking about the day before Michael Jackson died? The protests in Iran. Made it a lot harder to keep that story top of mind when people's attentions get pulled elsewhere.
The best you can do is keep telling compelling stories and not follow the media circus simply because it's pulling up the pegs to set up the tent somewhere else.
Robin and Samie point to the inevitable truth of human interest: it changes. I would say that people who feel they cannot change a situation, like Syria, may feel compelled to focus on other areas of news or interest to them. I think the question is not, how do we keep their attention? but rather, how do we solve the problem of an uncontrolled civil war that has killed too many and left many more abandoned? The news can only do so much. How do we, as people, stop violence?
With that said, I think the best way to grab someone's attention about a tough topic is to be honest with them about what you're offering. Maybe a new angle -- a new story -- a new picture -- will be enough. But when it's not, I think it's important to engage the audience in a bigger dialogue about the topic itself.
Also, we have to remember we're not the only game in town now. People who care about the topic will also follow independent channels like Syria Deeply or Brown Moses. So the coverage never stops entirely.
If it's just about attention, I'm not sure that's enough to prevent the same tragic event from happening in the future. I tried to focus our live coverage on what we could expect in terms of a response from world powers. Lou Charbonneau and many others at Reuters helped me to keep readers updated on what the United Nations was considering as a response to the civil war.
@Andy absolutely. And they should! It's good to have a mix of coverage from reputable sources.
This takes me to another point I wanted to touch on – the value of real-time coverage.
What good comes from publishing this content in real-time? What change – if any – can people abroad hope to make?
Real time works when you have great sources and content. Real time for the sake of sharing a fire-hose of information that's unverified and out of context to me is not valuable. It's just a waste of time, especially for media.
It's valuable to those of us trying to understand the changing dynamics on the ground. There's so much stuff happening in so many corners of the country. But what change can they hope to make? I think a lot of Syrians have become cynical enough that they don't expect anything to change, whether there's live coverage, later coverage, more coverage, no coverage. No matter what, the war and its toll continues.
Change the question around and ask, what's the value of live broadcast coverage? It depends. Sometimes it's really important for breaking news, sometimes it feels like they're just trying to avoid dead air.
I wish more news organizations would respect my time! I don't want to watch live coverage if it's not truly live.
That, and use the word "breaking" only when news is truly breaking. :-)
I think it will keep disappearing until there is a way to collect the information outside of the platforms themselves. Platforms do not have much specific interest in being the owners of archives, and in fact that can be a legal liability for them. We need better ways to record online information. I know the Library of Congress and other international libraries are working on this project, as are many non-profit organizations who value access to information. I hope to see developments in this space. We have already lost so much history in the past 10 years thanks to broken links and lost websites.
I don't think Felim's question is based on crowdsourcing running out of steam. I think it's about the many video channels that have shut down because the war has gone on so long and taken it's toll. Being a citizen journalist in Syria is one of the deadliest jobs in the world. People get killed, accounts get compromised. Fortunately new citizen journalists and media centers still come along, but it takes time to build any level of trust with them. So yeah, I'm worried too.
Yeah, think of all the URL shorteners that don't work any more. Unless someone has saved that short-url metadata, it's tantamount to pulling the plug on a living artifact somewhere else on the Internet.
This has been a great conversation, Margarita and Andy, and I thank you for participating.
I've done some storifies recently of the anniversaries of the riots in Greece and the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Biggest problem I had was dead URL shorteners pointing to nowhere.
Thanks Margarita, and good luck!
Again, a big thank you to our guests. It's been my pleasure to moderate. Scribble Chats run every Tuesday at lunchtime ET. See you again soon.