Panel: Mimi Onuoha, Research Fellow, Data & Society, Tow Society for Digital Journalism, Katerina Stravroula, freelance journalist and radio producer based in Athen and Tobias Dorfer
MO: Co-author of Tow report on the subject and before you read any further, you probably need to open this http://towcenter.org/research/guide-to-crowdsourcing/
Broadly defined by the Tow report as ‘The act of specifically inviting a group of people to participate in a reporting task’
People engaged in crow sourcing need to feel they have agency in contributing to a new story – we are not talking about scraping; people must not feel they are doing work for you. Everyone is getting something out of it.
The Two report says there are six types of crowdsourcing:
1. Voting – prioritising what reporters should tackle
2. Witnessing – sharing what you saw during a news event
3. Sharing personal experiences – tell us what you know
4. Tapping specialised expertise – contributing data or unique knowledge
5. Completing a task – volunteering time or skill to help create a news story
6. Engaging audiences – joining in call-outs (either informative or playful)
Crowdsourcing is about opportunities for communication via web technologies. As in the first session of the day it is about leveraging the collective intelligence of communities. People have something to gain, and it is it is crucial to the entire element of the entire story. It is just another part of the journalism process.
It is high touch, resource intensive and iterative. It allows journalists to tell stories that could not otherwise have been told, and it asserts the audience as an active participator in the story – the journalism is a relationship rather than a commodity.
TD: Engagement Editor at German news organisation Zeit Online which has about 10m unique users a month. User debates are at the heart of what it does and it has 67% of its audience aged under 49.
“Crowdsourcing is a really important part of our audience engagement strategy. It is not just about getting information that we might not be able to get otherwise, but it is about credibility. Crowdsourcing is the possibility of giving our readers the chance to be a part of project rather than consuming a product and it allows us to gain trust”.
Case study: Zeit Online investigated overdraft rates and asked the audience to send in their postcodes, BIC and overdraft rates. The project got 10k participants, information about 691 banks, and from that created a map of the two highest overdraft interest rats for every state, alongside several articles.
Case study: Bakeries that bake bread on the premises
Crowdsourced for readers to share the bakeries they knew of that sold handmade-on-site bread and rolls, and what baked goods they recommended. 15K participants, with more than 2,500 such bakeries identified. A map was created and included readers’ favourite products from those bakeries.
With these two case studies, Zeit Online used Google Forms and ran the campaign call outs for around two weeks.
KS is a member of the radiobubble.gr community, contributing to the rbnews and rbdata teams. Radiobubble comprises journalists and activist in Greece.
She was part of the team behind Generation E, a data driven investigation into migration; with a small team she crowdsourced for people to tell their experiences and stories. (The E stands for Europe, Emigration, Erasmus, Economy, Exodus, Escape.)
The team wanted official data, but also the stories of those impacted by it. We used a form online – we first invited people to participate, and tell their stories alongside sharing their data.
They received 2,400 stories and their top level findings included the driving factors for emigration, the registration of non-European migrants, and the inclination emigrants had to return to their home countries.
Tools: Open Refine, Datawrapper, Trello, GoogleDrive and Forms. Doodle, Twitter, Facebook, and also the team worked with media partners.
Takeaways from the panel
You need to plan but be prepared for what comes back to be different to what you expected
If you have a data journalism project, as a freelancer, you cannot continue indefinitely without funding
So, a few thoughts from me as a result of sitting through this very rewarding session…
Personally I think the big point journalists can take away from this was just how much information and time people are prepared to share – IF you can hit a topic they care about.
A few years ago, when I was editing the Daily Post, we ran a survey on a notorious road, the A55, but – crucially, I think – as well as asking people if it should be given a 3rd lane (no brainer answer: Yes) we asked them to share their views on what the biggest problems were, what they thought should be done, and any experiences they wanted to share.
It was incredibly successful in terms of response and richness of detail and made for several days with of content.
Crowdsourcing, I think, means you cede control of your questions and your line of investigation – what people want to tell you about may be only indirectly linked to the question you ask initially, but if you follow that line of inquiry, you may find the rewards, engagement and validity of the journalism is far, far greater than you imagined at the start.
Crowdsourcing is not “send us pictures of your children in Easter bonnets”; that’s a UGC shoutout. It is the collaborative act of putting inquiries into the world, and seeing what develops – of making stories with people who are outside of your newsroom and your bubble of perception.