Media Rumble has a cosmopolitan flavor and the Age of Collaborative Journalism session took up the idea that individual journalists and even smaller news organizations can improve their work by sharing resources. Bettina Chang, co-founder and editorial director at City Bureau, Christina Lee, head of the ambassador program at Hostwriter, and Vivian Schiller, head of Civil Foundation discussed the need for collaboration between journalists and the public for unbiased reporting. From this discussion, the idea of allowing translations of articles by a community of member journalists and using blockchain for maintaining integrity, attribution and compensation could be of interest.
Chang discussed the idea behind City Bureau, based out of Chicago. She said that “since the issue of racism is quiet rampant in the US, the segregated communities do not get right representation or none at all when someone outside of the community reports about them. At times, their representation in media might also appear negative due to lack of insight on the part of the journalist.” City Bureau, founded in 2015, is a non-profit civic journalism lab that provides training and workshops for journalists to represent these communities with sensitivity and create media that is responsible and trustworthy.
Lee explained that Hostwriter helps journalists to widen their reach by collaborating with other journalists globally. On its platform, local journalists get a chance to make contacts with journalists globally and collaborate with them for stories. The platform also allows then to couch surf at Hostwriter members’ houses. The members translate each other’s content and extend its reach globally enabling anyone who wants their story to get their share of representation in the media. Hostwriter is a team of 4000 members open for all journalists across the world to raise the quality of media.
Schiller elaborated Civil Foundation’s objectives – to create a network that is owned and operated by the public and newsrooms. The Civil Foundation, a platform for sustainable ethical journalism supported by the public, achieves this mission via grants to fund journalism innovation; advocacy of standards of journalism ethics; community-building among publishers and their public; and, educational programming for newsrooms. Schiller said, “More than 60 news organizations are members of the Civil Foundation which is open to publishers globally. The community judges whether these news organizations meet requisite journalistic standards and if they don’t, there is a standard procedure to deal with them.” The Civil network uses blockchain technology which enables the network to run according to a set of rules that the community controls, governed solely by clearly defined ethical journalism standards, known as the Civil Constitution.
The panelists at Media Rumble shifted to the harmful and common practice of extractive journalism – only connecting with others for resources but not assuming the responsibility to offer something in return. Journalists are often centered on how they can extract information out of someone or use their contacts to connect with other sources. This is unhealthy for the relationship between journalists and their sources. Chang insisted that journalists should be focused more on cultivating a relationship with sources. Apart from telling their stories to the world, journalists need to offer their sources something more in return to build a relationship of trust and mutual benefit. This practice encourages people to tell their stories and gives them a say in how it is told.
“Journalists have power and access to information, and it can be used beyond creating stories. They have the option to offer their sources the help they need to resolve some of their local issues by connecting them to the concerned parties. Journalists can further add value to their work by spreading information in plain language about things that could be useful for the community,” said Chang.
Cross-border journalism is an issue with reporting where the reality of victims is not reflected in its true form, but twisted and molded by the bias of a journalist. This happens because of the lack of diversity in media or the limited knowledge of journalists. A person who shares or understands the experience of a victim in a story can tell the story effectively. Collaboration among journalists and news organizations can help journalists to report global issues sensitively.
Despite the benefits that collaborative journalism brings to the table, it is not without its faults. It can cause conflicts among journalists due to the difference in perception. However, Chang asserts that while conflicts are inevitable, they are also a form of communication. Collaborating with outsiders can broaden perspectives and challenges preconceptions and cliches, often forcing journalists to admit their biases.
Media Rumble is rolling and it is admirable notwithstanding the strong support from Facebook and Google. Facebook and Google currently have it both ways – they are the biggest revenue beneficiaries of the mainstream media and also the many alternatives to the mainstream that are emerging. For them let a hundred flowers bloom is ideal and with support for platforms like Media Rumble they make direct contact with the next generation of content creators and consumers. I only hope that the Media Rumble organizers and builders have extracted good money for this extraordinary service to their sponsors.
From the above article on the collaborative journalism session at this years Media Rumble, it is clear that a whole range of platforms are emerging and attempting to bring energy and life to some of objectives of the media that are being eroded by the disruption to the long honeymoon of print media and traditional advertising.
Flux is good but for new platforms and publishers a target audience and a business model are prerequisites to success. Media Rumble was full of global efforts and collaborations that are relying on what their producers are mistakenly thinking is an unregulated medium and space. The mainstream print and television media has been protected and even subsidised by the Indian government’s regulation and generosity and has periodically stood up for its rights of freedom of expression.
However, the governments in the South Asian subcontinent are extremely wary and harsh in their control of the internet and without fighting for our democratic and constitutional rights of expression and formalising these in the courts as and when needed, we could be headed for trouble on the Internet. Especially as the owners of distribution pipes (internet and data providers) also become owners of content production such as Reliance with TV18 and Jio. It will also behoove us to be wary and choosy as to our causes, global collaborations and even the choice of do-gooding investors who will likely buckle in favour of their primary interests, when push comes to shove.