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The Colorado shooting and the crowdsourced future of news

The Colorado shooting and the crowdsourced future of news

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jul 21, 2012
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02/03/2013

 
The Colorado shooting and the crowdsourcedfuture of news
By Mathew Ingram Jul. 20, 2012
Only a few days ago, we werewriting about howusers of Twitterand Reddit used those networks totell a compelling story about a massshooting in Toronto, and now thesame phenomenon is playing out inreal-time during another horrificincident:a shooting at a movietheater in Colorado that has killed at least a dozen people and woundedmore than 50. Although local TV news channels and CNN have been allover the story since it broke late Thursday night, some of the best fact-based information gatheringhas been taking place on Reddit and viacuration tools like Storify. In each of these events, we can see how anew form of journalism
 — 
one that blends traditional reporting andcrowdsourced reports
 — 
is taking shape.As media writer Andrew Beaujon at the Poynter Institute notes, Redditquickly became the go-to spot for comprehensive information about theshooting and its aftermath. Although other sites put up Storifycollections of tweets from individuals who were at the scene
 — 
 including one of the victims
 — 
as a way of tracking how the newsspread, the community of users at Reddit went a step further: theycollaborated in real time to producea continuously updated timeline of the event,complete with links to where they obtained the information.
 
That kind of collaboration is something many cash-strapped newsroomssimply no longer have the resources to produce (Buzzfeed hasaninterview with the 18-year-old Reddit user who created most of thetimeline).
Eyewitness reports, crowdsourced timelines, Q&As
But Reddit hosted more than just the timeline: while other mainstreammedia outlets spoke to people who were near the incident (many of whom added little in the way of useful detail) Reddit had severalsubmissions from members of the communitywho were actually in thetheater when the shooting started
 — 
and because of the way Redditfunctions, commenters were able to interact with those eyewitnesses in a
way that wouldn’t have been possible in any other format except a
staged conversation on a TV talk show. Not only that, but one personinvolved in the incidentactually posted photos of their wounds to the site. As one commenter noted:
“How cool is it we can ask a guy a question over the internet about an
event t 
hat happened less than 8 hours ago firsthand? Reporters couldn’t  get on a plane and find someone that quickly. The future is now.”
 
Reddit wasn’t the only place where such reports were appearing, of 
course. The brother of one of the victims wrotea touching blog postabout his sister,who was not only an aspiring sportscaster but had alsonarrowly escaped being shot during a similar mass shooting in a Torontoshopping mall in June.Other eyewitnesses and those injured in theColorado shooting posted their thoughts to Twitter, including one thatwasretweeted by movie critic Roger Ebert and then redistributed by thousands of others. And mainstream journalists like Daniel Petty of theDenver Post also turnedtheir Twitter streams into real-time breaking news feeds.
 
In each of these cases, we can see severaldifferent factors coming into play that arechanging the way the news and/or journalism(however you define it) is being practiced.There are 
as bloggingpioneer Dave Winer has described it
 — 
inother words, eyewitnesses and victims and others telling their storiesdirectly themselves, without having to wait for traditional journalists tofind them and ask them questions. This may make things more chaoticand harder to understand initially, but it also means that those who wantdirect information can get it without waiting for it to be filtered by anews entity.
Reddit shows the power of a community approach to news
The other phenomenon is the crowdsourcing of information gathering
that occurred with the Colorado timeline, something that wouldn’t be
possible withoutthe community-based approach that Reddit is built on.  That community can be a powerful force for good
 — 
 
as we’ve seen with
Reddit-
driven campaigns such as the Caine’s Arcade
 — 
and it also allows everyday users to become part of the news-gathering process. As I argued in my recent post about the Torontoshooting, this is very similar to the
 that Andy Carvin of NPR took during the revolution in Egypt (and iscontinuing to take during the ongoing violence in Syria).
And it’s not just the news
-gathering aspect
 — 
as the Reddit commentermentioned
above, the site’s community platform also allows people whowouldn’t normally be part of the traditional journalism sphere of 
influenceto interact with those affected by a story like Colorado, by doing things like asking questions of those involved.

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