Thirteen Questions About the Future of Participatory Journalism

At this year’s Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications conference I moderated a panel on legal, educational and practical debates about participatory journalism and citizen reporting. I had the good fortune to be joined by a terrific group of scholars and activists: Amanda Hickman of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Lisa Lynch of Concordia University, Madeleine Bair of Witness.org and Morgan Weiland of Stanford University.

I posted a preview of the discussion before the panel. But the panel itself was a lively and engaged debate where a number of important new issues were debated. Below are recordings of the panel’s opening remarks. You can listen to the entire half hour on Soundcloud, but below I’ve split it up into short three and four minute clips, highlighting a few key themes that emerged. Continue reading

Debating Participatory Journalism: Newsrooms, Campuses, Courts and Congress

This week I’ll be at the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) moderating a panel with some of my favorite people, on one of my favorite topics. (Click here to jump to the links and resources section)

The session is called, “Media Policy and Participatory Journalism: Teaching, Engaging and Protecting Acts of Journalism” (scheduled for Thursday at 11:45, location TBD) and will focus on big legal and ethical questions that are raised as more and more people are taking up the tools of journalism and covering the news in their communities and around the globe.

How do we understand press freedom when anyone can carry a press in their pocket? How are state and federal laws shaping people’s ability to participate in newsgathering? How are journalism schools welcoming more community participation and preparing journalists for that kind of engagement?

The session is based in part on my research paper from last year on acts of journalism and press freedom debates emerging in the digital age. However, the session also resonates with the work I am doing now around developing and supporting new local news networks which are deeply participatory, engaged with their communities and sustainable.

Continue reading

Why the SCOTUS Cellphone Decision is a Win for Press Freedom

According to the Supreme Court, police need a warrant to search the cellphones of people they arrest. The unanimous decision, which was handed down this week, is being heralded as a major victory for privacy rights and a landmark case with implications far beyond cellphones.

The New York Times reports, “The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.”

Many of the most important debates surrounding press freedom and privacy right now focus on how our fundamental freedoms, so long expressed and protected in the physical world, will translate to the digital age. The decision this week is an important recognition that advances in our technology shouldn’t result in erosions of our liberty.

Right to Record

I know a number of reporters and citizen journalists whose cellphones have been searched, and who have even had footage or photos erased. In 2012 I was part of a team at Free Press who launched a campaign fighting for people’s right-to-record, a shorthand we used to talk about both people’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to use their cellphones to gather and disseminate news. In a letter to the Justice Department that year, a diverse range of press freedom and digital rights groups wrote, “The right to record is an essential component of our rights at a time when so many of those witnessing public protests carry networked, camera-ready devices such as smartphones.”

Not long after that letter, the Justice Department released a set of guidelines for police departments reasserting the right to record as a First Amendment protected activity. Those guidelines cited the case of Simon Glik, who was arrested for recording police activity with his cellphone. First circuit Judge Kermit Lipez ruled in Glik’s favor, highlighting how mobile phones have fundamentally changed news-gathering:

[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw… Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

While this week’s decision focuses on the Fourth Amendment, not the First, it also has clear implications for freedom of the press. Continue reading

Rewriting the Story of Journalism

[Adapted from my remarks at "Filling the News Gap in Cambridge and Beyond:  Citizen Journalism and Grassroots Media" sponsored by Cambridge Community TV.] 

reporters notebook

In moments of profound change and transition we tend to reach back to old clichés and familiar metaphors to help make sense of the tumultuous world around us. Debates about the future of journalism are no different.

I’ve heard this moment described as trying to leap between two moving trains, as one slows down and the other one speeds away. This is journalism as a leap of faith.

I’ve heard this moment described as trying to move out of one house and into another, as the old house falls apart and the new one still isn’t finished being built. This is journalism as a fix-it upper.

And I’ve heard it described as the dying of an industry and the rebirth of a network. This is journalism as a Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Each of these metaphors capture a piece of the incredible change we are witnessing in our media, but none quite does it for me. All of these descriptions portray the changes in journalism as something happening to us, a force outside our control – moving trains, collapsing houses, engulfing fire. We are left with no agency and no responsibility to create the future of media in these scenarios. Continue reading

New York City to Pay $75,000 to Occupy Livestream Collective

When the New York Police Department raided the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011 they arrested more than 10 journalists and threatened or harassed many others. However, they also destroyed an enormous amount of equipment that local journalists had been using to livestream from Occupy Wall Street.

Image via Flickr user PaulSteinJC

In a settlement released this week, New York City agreed to pay the livestream collective Global Revolution TV $75,000 for damage done to their equipment and an additional nearly $50,000 to cover the livestreamers legal fees. (Notably, the settlement also calls for NYC to pay $47,000 for books that were destroyed when police dismantled “the people’s library” in Zuccotti Park.)

Global Revolution TV was one of the most active livestream groups covering Occupy Wall Street and found themselves targeted by police on more than one occasion.  Just a month and a half after the Zuccotti raid, Global Revolution TV’s Brooklyn studio space was also raided. Six members of the Global Revolution TV team were arrested at the time for refusing the vacate the building they were using as studio space.

While livestreaming has been an important part of protests and movements for at least half a decade, Occupy Wall Street took livestreaming mainstream. Over the last two years with the rise and spread of Internet connected phones and cameras, more and more people have taken up livestreaming from sporting events to political rallies. Continue reading

What’s Next for AOL’s Patch?

Kira Goldenberg at the Columbia Journalism Review reports on some potential changes that are coming down the line at AOL’s hyperlocal network of websites, Patch. On AOL’s second-quarter earnings call, Goldenberg reports, CEO Tim Amstrong hinted that the new Patch platform would feature deeply integrated tools for local commerce and expanded civic engagement, in addition to local news and journalism.

Goldenberg couldn’t get anyone at Patch to talk on the record about the changes but as soon as I saw the news I had a guess regarding what part of the new Patch might look like. Continue reading