Dear journos and media researchers,
I started working on this paper in 2010 as a part of my Visiting Fellowship at the Reuters Institute. Then other things came along and I had to leave it for a bit. I’m glad that I finally managed to finish it, as there is surprisingly little research on the use of crowdsourcing in journalism and, at least to my knowledge, none at all that would focus solely on the practice of this method in investigative journalism.
As a journalist I have a practical approach to research. This is not a peer-reviewed academic article. My aim is to broaden the understanding of crowdsourcing in newsrooms. I hope it’ll prove to be useful for journalists who are looking to ‘connect readers’ brains’, as Tuomo Pietiläinen so aptly defines crowdsourcing in my interview.
I’d be glad to hear any comments about the study.
Here’s the blurb:
Use of crowdsourcing requires rigorous fact-checking
Crowdsourcing can be an efficient tool in investigative journalism, according to a new report from the Reuters Institute. To achieve the best results possible, journalists need to adopt a more open approach to online investigations. This would mean a significant change in newsroom culture.
The report Crowdsourcing in Investigate Journalism by former RISJ Fellow Johanna Vehkoo aims to find out what makes crowdsourced investigations successful and how is this method different from seeking out sources in traditional ways. News organisations now have an unforeseen access to their readers and others on the web, but do they have sufficient know-how to use this potential in investigative projects?
Some news outlets have started early and have gained more experience in the field, whilst others still misunderstand crowdsourcing merely as conducting vox pops. Although crowdsourcing has been a popular buzzword in newsrooms for several years, there is still relatively little research about its uses in journalism.
The paper introduces three case studies from both Finland and the UK. These are:
– How Paul Lewis of the Guardian found out the truth about the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson
– How Tuomo Pietiläinen of Finland’s biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat exposed the secret bonuses of Finnish stockbrokers with the help of his readers
– How the online platform Help Me Investigate involved local communities in collective acts of investigative journalism
Journalists still have a lot to learn about verification of user-generated content and community building, the report argues. Despite being extremely useful in breaking-news situations and some long-term investigations, crowdsourcing is also a method that is vulnerable to manipulation. Therefore, the journalistic process of rigorous fact-checking should be at the heart of all crowdsourced investigations.