Citizen Media Watch

november 13th, 2008

Joi Ito: Don't sign bad licenses

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Joi Ito at SIME'08

Citizen Media Watch met with blogging veteran, super-entrepreneur and CEO of Creative Commons Joi Ito during the SIME conference in Stockholm. He told us about how he (possibly) made the New York Times change their contract for freelance material, and he sent a message to anyone wanting to make it as a semi-pro or pro journalist or photographer.

Joi ItoMainstream media is struggling with how to use photos with Creative Commons licensing. The reason is they’re not used to attribution models, but rather to pay the photographer and get the exclusive rights for the photo, says Joi Ito.
But they are starting to learn.
– They’re realising that atleast for certain situations and certain people it’s impossible to get a photograph in time. They’re realising it’s a resource. They’re starting to learn the rules, says Joi Ito, who saw a lot of abuse of the license in the early days.

He reveals that it took him three years of refusing to sign the New York Times’s standard contract after having written an article for them before they gave in – and actually changed it for everyone. At first they simply wanted the exclusive rights, period. Now the contract says they get the exclusives for one month, then you can re-use it in any way you want.
– But they changed. It took me three years of saying no no no. You just have to keep working. Don’t sign bad licenses, advices Joi Ito.

This is part of a longer interview also addressing the need for new business models, why hyperlocal journalism is failing and the two ways for photographers to make money. We’ve made the full-length uncut interview available on our blip.tv account. It is licensed under a creative commons license.

A big thanks to Joakim Jardenberg who pinpointed one of the questions for Mr Ito. And to Björn Falkevik for the filming/camera crash-course.

/Lotta & Gitta

Joi Ito at SIME'08


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november 11th, 2008

Camilla Lindberg: You need to be right – and earn the trust

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Over at Same Same But Different there’s an interesting guest post by politician Camilla Lindberg, the only member of one of the government parties in Sweden who voted against the new and controversial wiretapping law, commonly known as the FRA law.
The debate about the law was a real breakthrough for the Swedish blogosphere (which to a large extent celebrated Lindberg as a hero for voting against her own party), but in her guest post Camilla Lindberg says this does not mean that bloggers can always rely on being taken more seriously from now on.

Lindberg writes (my translation):

The blogosphere won the FRA debate because it was right. It was an issue that was pretty much dead everywhere else. It touched a nerve, it made people react. And – although not each individual blogger could get all the technical facts of a very complex issue right – it was possible to discuss it on a fundamental level.

Lindberg expresses criticism against the mass-emailing staged by evening paper Expressen, which urged people to copy a text about the FRA law and send it to all the members of the Swedish Riksdag. She thinks this is a form of spam rather than a good way to communicate people’s opinions to decision makers. There blogs are a better option, and Lindberg stresses their role as opinion media.

She writes (again, my translation):

Blogs are first and foremost opinion based media. When competing with tv or papers that have greater resources for investigative journalism, fact checking and the like, they are underdogs, even if they can compensate for this somewhat through networking. But misconceptions and errors can still spread through blogging networks. In such cases you lose credibility.

And she concludes:

The lesson to learn is that the impact of a medium depends on trust. Trust is volatile. You have to nurture it, or you will lose your readers.


(Video clip from the demonstration outside the Riksdag, which to a great extent came to pass because of activism from bloggers)


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oktober 23rd, 2008

12seconds.tv brings citizens' voices to established media

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

12seconds.tv, a lifestreaming/commentary/microblogging service in video format currently in beta, is becoming a popular tool for bringing people’s opinion to established media sites. The site’s built on really short video clips (12 seconds, duh!) recorded by webcams or cellphones. Quick and simple ways to publish oneself, and the time restriction takes away some of the prestige.

Today the BBC is collaborating with the site by sponsoring the feature called ”the 12second challenge”, a daily question that users reply to. Users get to reply to the question ”Economic downturn – how bad can it get? Give some examples.” The replies may then appear on BBC TV.

Further, 12seconds.tv today announced to its users plans to involve them in extensive coverage of the US election day.

In an email to the service’s users, the 12seconds team writes:

Citizen Journalism is pretty important for the health of a democracy. For this reason, we’re going to put a lot of effort into Election Day. Where appropriate (and legal) we’d like 12ers covering reactions, parties, exit polls and emotions on November 4th all over the world. We’re assembling a team of people and will feature their content on Election Day.


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juni 27th, 2008

Citizen journalism's big impact in Korea

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Interesting piece over at TechnoKimchi on the protests against president Lee Myung-Bak in Korea and how it all came about through citizen journalism:

How did it happen so quickly? This is the fun part. Lee is a very conservative guy, who still believes in ”control”. What he did was, when numerous protests broke out around the country, he basically ordered the media companies ”not to report” to the people about what’s happening. There were police at work, trying to stop the ”peace candlelight” protests, or vigils now called; some police went quite violent, but none to be reported by major broadcasters, newspapers, Internet news sites, or magazines.

But we’re living in the age of Web 2.0. Now people are in control. People that were there became citizen journalists – thousands and thousands. And the force of citizen journalism has grown so immense that basically nobody can stop it now.

One site gathered a stunning 1.5 million signatures to an online call for impeachment. Read the full piece here.


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mars 12th, 2008

Personal transparency, the eleventh change for journalists

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

A lot of comments have been made to Paul Bradshaw’s (read his blog too) excellent list of changes for journalists in the upcoming ten years in the Press Gazette lately. In short, the list is made up of:

1. From a lecture to a conversation
2. The rise of the amateur
3. Everyone’s a paperboy/girl now
4. Measurability
5. Hyperlocal, international
6. Multimedia
7. Really Simple Syndication
8. Maps
9. Databases
10. Just a click away

I’d like to add an eleventh change/challenge for journalists. One that is closely connected to no. 1, but I think it deserves it’s own mention.

11. Personal transparency

As a consequence of blogs, wikis and citizen media sites becoming more important sources of information for the general public, I think we’ll see a new awareness of the importance of trust, and knowing who your source of information is. Bloggers are often open about what their views are and who they are affiliated with. If they’re not, you bet someone else will find out and make it public.

I am convinced this openness will be demanded of journalists as well. You might not need to reveal details about your private life, but you will need to give your readers/viewers/listeners an idea och what you represent. This is an important distinction, since for instance journalists working with sensitive information, infiltrating or walraffing will need to remain fairly anonymous when it comes to for instance how they look and sometimes even what their names are in order to do their job well. But they can still build up trust. Swedish blogger Beta Alfa is a good example that you do not need to reveal your real name in order to achieve this. Being open about your affiliations, for instance, and anything else that might influence or be suspected to influence your work, is a good start. Also simple things like providing a list of links to what you’ve written before on a subject.
I call this personal transparency.


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mars 2nd, 2008

Hard times for bloggers and journalists in Sri Lanka

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Living in Sweden, and especially taking an active part in covering and exploring social and citizen media, I take many things for granted. One is the right to take photos in public areas, another to report about what I see and opinions and thoughts I have on any thinkable subject.

In other parts of the world, however, those simple actions can get you into serious trouble. I recently read an article in AsiaMedia about the situation in Sri Lanka. The country is the world’s third most dangerous place for journalists to operate, with only Iraq and Somalia being more deadly. Seven journalists were killed there in 2007.

Pedestrians who use their cellphones to film bomb attacks or even everyday events get questioned by police, and it’s not only authorities that pose a threat to reporters or anyone with a camera. There’s a trend of citizens not turning to the tools of citizen media to improve their situation, but instead turning against anyone trying to do this, or anyone remotely suspected of it.

Anyone with a still or video camera in public is immediately suspected as a ”trouble-maker.” This endangers our right to click and shoot for personal or professional purposes.

Despite this, however, there is a movement of citizen journalism, though it’s a lonely and vulnerable job, especially with a decrease in democracy in recent years. New media activist Sanjana Hattotuwa is interviewed, and says:

– In Sri Lanka, the significant deterioration of democracy in 2006-2007 has resulted in a country where anxiety and fear overwhelm a sense of civic duty to bear witness to so much of what is wrong. No amount of mobile phones and PCs is going to magically erase this deep rooted fear of harm for speaking one’s mind out.

The article writer, Nalaka Gunawardene, brings up an example which clearly shows the poor state of democracy and the hardship for bloggers in Sri Lanka.

A fellow blogger recently wrote a moving piece about a 65-year-old woman who sells fruits and vegetables at her local market in Colombo. The story behind the story was how the blogger had been surrounded and questioned by four men and the police, who demanded to know whether she had ”permission from the municipality to photograph.”

Luckily, the vegetable sellers came to her rescue. ”They… said they asked me to come with the camera to take some photographs of them,” she wrote.

But she posed the question: ”Do we have to have a camera license like a gun license of yesteryear?”

(via Social Media)


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december 23rd, 2007

Hyper local – Åsbro

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

I once more welcome Gitta Wilén as a guest contributor here at Citizen Media Watch. This time she has interviewed a hyperlocal blogger, Alf Fransson.

Alf Fransson, hyperlocal blogger in Åsbro, Sweden.

Map over ÅsbroAlf Fransson, 69, is blogging about a small area 1.3 Swedish miles from Askersund in Närke, Sweden. By putting up his own placards at the local petrol station/grocery store, he has managed to engage the people who are living in the area to read and to give response to his blog material.

The Åsbro blog has been up and running since the beginning of this November 2007. Fransson says that he got inspired to start blogging by his stepdaughter. The address for the blog is estabo.blogspot.com. Estabo is the name of the place in Åsbro where Fransson lives.
– I did not want to use the blog address ”asbro”, because it is Swedish for something else but Åsbro, he laughs.

There are 1.600 people living in Åsbro and Fransson’s blog is about things which concern the inhabitants: ”Do we need efficient street-lighting?”, ”Why is there cable worth over a million lying down by the lake ‘Åsasjön’?” and ”What is going on at the Åsbro kursgård?”

Fransson has been visiting and writing about the companies in the area. One of the companies is Alfapac, which is Åsbro’s largest industry and employs about 80 people.
– It gives me the chance to satisfy my own curiosity as well as getting material for my blog, he says.

BirdThere are some musicians and authors living in Åsbro and Fransson has plans for future blogging:
– I am thinking about interviewing people. I would like to write about personalities in the field of culture, he says.

Fransson also wants to blog about interesting places to visit in the area. Not so well known excursion spots.
– Most of the people do not see the beauty of their own neighbourhood, Fransson says and adds:
– There is an old sacrificial well situated in the forest that I would like to show to you and my readers.


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juli 20th, 2007

Gillmor: Experiment more!

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Dan Gillmor has put together a ten point report of the state of citizen media today.
While both a general audience and traditional media now pays attention to citizen media, there have been backlashes and we are still struggling with the business models and trust issues, Gillmor writes. Many start-ups have failed, yet there are a few examples of successful sites. Gillmor mentions Scoop and NowPublic as good examples. And he’s optimistic about the future of journalism, encouraging people to experiment more.

not only don’t you need permission, but you don’t need much money, either

In finding new ways for citizen media to develop, Gillmor has a philosophy. This is his advice:

* Openness: Use open technologies, and be open with others about what you are doing. Now, a truly spectacular idea may be such a hot business project that one should work in stealth mode, but most ideas will find more traction with the help of others who care about what you’re doing.
* Use tools that already exist: Reinventing wheels is rarely a productive use of time in the cheap-experiments arena. Chances are that many if not all of the tools you need are already available.
* Collaboration: Work with anyone and everyone.
* Take risks: This is by far the most important. Silicon Valley, where I’ve lived for more than a decade, has taught me a crucial truth, that a culture of risk-taking is a precondition for wider success. The low cost of trying, and correspondingly low cost of failure, is removing virtually all reasons for not taking chances.

The last point is about trust, and is well worth reading in its entirety.


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juli 20th, 2007

Who can do citizen journalism?

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

Magnus Ljungkvist. Photo: Lotta HolmströmAfter Magnus Ljungkvist received Nyhetspriset, a Swedish citizen journalism award presented by Politikerbloggen, criticism has been heard. He received the award for revealing that then minister Borelius had a high income when she claimed she could not afford to pay employment taxes for hiring a nanny. Borelius resigned shortly after this.

The two main critics, Fredrik R Krohnman and Jonathan Leman, claim that it’s not correct to call Ljungkvist’s scoop citizen journalism since Ljungkvist’s employed by a political party (the social democrats, where he works as press speaksperson).
The blog is however not an official social democrat blog, but his private publishing space.

The critique and the discussion that’s followed is interesting because it sheds light on an important question: Who can call himself/herself a citizen journalist? In Krohnman’s and Leman’s argumentation I see the same views as some of the more conservative SJF (Swedish journalists’ union) members gave voice to at a debate I took part of in Stockholm in May. The idea that journalism is defined by who does it. And now Krohnman/Leman uses the same argumentation for citizen journalism.

Citizen journalism is most often not objective. What is important though is transparency, to clearly state what allegiances you have.
This is the one bit of critisism that I can partly agree with. It is not obvious from Ljungkvist’s blog that he works for the social democrats.

But: Doing so does not exclude him from performing acts of citizen journalism. For me, that is exactly how you can define it: If you perform an act of journalism that is journalism. But you also need to be very open about anything that could have influenced your angles when you report a story.

I think Ljungkvist’s scoop is qualified to be called an act of citizen journalism. Even though it is not obvious for a new reader of his blog Magnus Tankar who he is, this was not unknown for returning visitors or indeed for most media. Knowing this does not change the value of what he revealed about Borelius, and his doing this before any traditional media company.

I do agree with Krohnman/Leman that traditional media should have done a better job presenting who Ljungkvist is though. I also believe a critical approach to your sources is vital for anyone doing journalism.

Disclaimer: I was a jury member for the Nyhetspriset award


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maj 16th, 2007

Reports from the SJF debate on user generated content

Posted by Lotta Holmstrom

I haven’t had time to write about the SJF panel debate on citizen media the other day, so I was happy to see that Media Culpa and Andreas Aspegren have done the job for me. And a good job too.

On the whole it was an odd situation, being in a debate with my employer’s main competitor suddenly on my side, and the other side consisting of representatives of my own trade union. These are strange times.
It was however a good and necessary debate which high-lighted for me some of the dangers of the conservatism in the press corps.


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