Looking for the citizen media solution

Leonard Witt has published an academic paper on citizen media called “Constructing a Framework to Enable an Open Source Reinvention of Journalism

It’s an interesting approach, drawing comparisons to the open software movement and open source journalism. However, if a publisher is looking for an actionable road map, this paper isn’t it. It’s more theoretical than operational. That may be understandable since of all the citizen media experiments being conducted by mainstream newspapers, none yet can be clearly defined as success, so we don’t necessarily know yet what success looks like, or how to get there.

Witt provides some bits of good advice, though, such as:

Just as with the Los Angeles Times’s Wikitorial failure, the Bayosphere’s poor showing could have been predicted by a close reading of open source software and commons-based peer production literature. Beneath what might look like an open environment there usually is structure and someone with a vision actively providing guidance.

There’s also this important bit:

An enduring criticism is that reporters and editors write for other reporters and editors and not for the audience — or the users. An open source content model should consider serving both users and possible content producers with the aim of producing a more robust product.

And I think that’s where a good citizen media effort should lead. It’s the whole “journalism as a conversation” model.

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