05 July 2007

Incentives for 'Citizen Stringers'

In his latest ‘Stop the Presses’ column, long-time digital media practitioner and observer Steve Outing considers the idea of offering small incentives to citizen journalists who can write about the hyperlocal events that newspaper do not have the staff resources to cover.

He suggests establishing a program to solicit applicants – enabling editors to assess applications, with an eye for people who are passionate about the topic and, ideally, are able to communicate both in words and with visuals – and enable the paper to pay ‘citizen stringers’ small amounts to cover events. A financial reward, even a very small one, motivates people to submit content of decent quality.

‘Grassroots reporting will be a mix of good, sometimes excellent quality, and absolute crap,’ Outing writes. ‘But the latter is what editors are there to protect against, and they can keep the crap from being highlighted and position the best stuff prominently.’

Moreover, he adds: ‘There's a darn good chance that a citizen correspondent who, for example, is a serious flower hobbyist, and who you pay $5 per blog post, will do a much better job of covering a local flower show than some poor staff reporter who's assigned to cover it and provides sleepy, dull coverage.’

He also stresses the value of labelling the source of content, especially when the site offers a mix of items from professional journalists and community members. Bylines such as ‘By Jane Jones, citizen correspondent’ are appropriate, with the title linked to an explanation that this person is not a professional journalist and the newspaper does not vet or warrant her submission.

The full article (time-sensitive for non-subscribers) is available online.


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