What would motivate you to contribute to a citizen media site?

    by Mark Glaser
    February 12, 2007

    Let’s say you were a witness to something tragic or exciting, something newsworthy like a terrorist bombing or a record-breaking track race. You were on the scene and captured important photos or video, and wrote a story about the experience. Now there are many citizen journalism sites that want you to submit your material, from NowPublic to Yahoo’s You Witness News to CNN Exchange. And there’s also hyper-local sites around the country and world that want you to contribute every little happening or event in your local neighborhood. My question is where would you take that newsworthy information that you have, and why? Would you go to the highest bidder, see who would pay you the most? Would you want your work to have the biggest impact? Or would you just be doing it to help the wider community? What would motivate you to submit material to one of these sites? If you run one of these sites, tell us how you get people to contribute. Use the comments to share your thoughts, and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments journalism
    • Howard Owens has jumped in and responded in part to this question:

      He says:
      “I firmly believe that many people just want to have their say and make their contribution because they feel compelled to share what they know. I think this is good for society. I think there is real value in protecting, extending, expanding and nurturing the conversation.

      “What would motivate you to contribute to CitJ? Me? I’d contribute where I found it convenient and I felt like I was already part of the community. Right now, that’s pretty much my blog.”

    • I just keep thinking that wikis are the way. But I have moved from the solo act of blog to the team collaboration of wikis.

      Team blog or collab wiki? A blog is trapped in the “listen to me” while a wiki is necessarily a “listen to us” or “listen to it”, i.e., the wiki workspace of anonymous contributions that build into a grand treasury of user-customized information.

      Is wiki media? Even better: it is a by-passing of mediated intervention and invasively carving out a cavern of secret lore made common and public.

      Wiki dissolves the division between hearing about a problem (news) and getting off your butt and doing something about it (activism).

      Wrenching politics (social responsivity to civic problems) away from politicians and lobbyists, by constructing grassroots, non-partisan collaboration project zones online.

      Soon, politicians will have nothing to do, which they’re good at.


    • Matt McAlister thinks I’m asking the wrong question here, and that the real point is building meaningful communities. Here’s what he says, in part:

      “What would motivate you to contribute to a citizen media site?”

      I can’t imagine that anyone is going to be able to answer that question in an interesting way. It’s the wrong question. It’s kind of like asking why do people sing at church? Or why do people meet their friends at the pub?

      If the church asks you to sing, you sing. If your friends tell you to meet at the pub, you go to the pub. The community and purpose of doing things together is already implied, so you do whatever everyone else in that community does if you want to be a part of it…

      The question is about forming meaningful communities and the kinds of things that will help a community flourish. Meaning comes in millions of different shapes and sizes, but there are lots of precedents in terms of ideologies, aesthetics, and methods.

      News, for example, is inherently about being first to report on an event. Successful community-based news sites enable people who care enough about a topic to either be the first to report on it or be clued in before less speedy outlets pick up on something. It feeds into a competitive and sometimes gossipy human nature. Just ask your best reporters why they became reporters. Digg appeals to the reporter in all of us.

      Read his whole post:

    • K. Curtis

      I would like to post news about the ongoing construction and conditions in my neighborhood, located in Rockland, MA. However, when people write about conditions, etc. in this subsidized housing project, we get retaliated against and harassed. I’ve had such experiences; therefore, am forced to limit what I write about or photograph. Our corporate landlord(s) are politically-connected, negligent, and violate laws.

    • Great question! I teach interactive media writing at San Francisco State University and I’m going to ask my students this week what would motivate them to do some citizen journalism.

      For myself, I think of it in terms of venue. Where would I post or send my news story? I assume that a “big” enough story is already going to have a lot of people b/vlogging, writing on Indymedia, etc. I prefer to avoid feeding the Tribble Effect (zillions of versions of the same story filling up the blogosphere and my aggregator folders).

      As for stories that aren’t being heavily b/vlogged already, if I knew where to post them so that people would see them, I might do that. But I actually don’t know any sites or b/vlogs that collect stuff on that scale. The sites I know about are either “big story”-oriented or very, very narrowly focused (and usually not collaborative anyway). I love the Minnesota Stories vlog and haven’t found anything really comparable in San Francisco. Though perhaps it’s out there and I just need to keep searching…

    • Nic Slater

      Just the idea that the site might be contributing to my community in a way that fosters actual community. That it could bolster the forces against self serving politicians, bureaucrats and business people. This strikes me as a very positive aspect of citizen journalism. The CMD site seems to be doing an admirable job.

    • Jeremy Bante

      I like the trend I’m reading in people’s comments about building community, and I particularly disliked the anonymity associated with current wikis. I don’t trust information without an author’s name attached to it. I’m proud of my community contributions, and a venue that massages my ego would encourage me to contribute more. After I write something, I want to know that people are reading it and not just a random middle school student in podunk looking for a current event for the day. I want to know that people who I know are reading it. A large enough story is bound to have several accounts, so if a reader wants to read a story from a perspective they identify with, they should be able to sift through the several accounts to read the story from the “politically moderate scandinavian pianist living in the 27409 ZIP code” perspective. Eventually, my neighbor is going to notice my name on the information he’s reading, and nothing builds community like discovering each other in new venues.

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