YouTube gets citizen journalism, will they give it back?

Woot! YouTube’s got a new channel for citizen journalism.

From ReadWriteWeb:

This channel will highlight the best of the citizen journalism that’s taking place on YouTube, but its ultimate goal is to become a go-to news destination on the web.

Though as Dan Gillmor points out YouTube isn’t giving much back to the community:

I hope they’re going to find a way to reward the people who are doing the work. As I’ve said again and again, I’m not a fan of business models that say “You do all the work and we’ll take all the money, thank you very much.”

I also hope YouTube will give people a way to post using Creative Commons licenses, which are all about sharing information, as opposed to the currently restrictive terms of service. This is the main reason I don’t automatically recommend the service — though I do believe it offers great value in a general sense– and why I do recommend Blip.TV, which makes Creative Commons one of the defaults.

Making no little plans: The Windy Citizen’s Brad Flora

Combine many sleepless nights, a killer open source platform, and one very ambitious young journalist, and you just might get a kick-ass news site like The Windy Citizen. Brad Flora took the leap from graduate student to publisher when he started the acclaimed Chicago news site The Methods Reporter while still in school. Now he’s going beyond the straight news format and is building a community to foster “A conversation about Chicago.”

His efforts have been written about in the Chicago Tribune, blogged on by McGuire on Media, and picked up on Romenesko. Brad and I sat down for a beer this Monday and talked about his plans.

[flashvideo filename=”Brad%20Flora%20Interview.mp3″ height=20 /]

Boyer: Chicago’s got a a mess of web sites, from those put up by newspapers and television stations, to indie web outlets and arty zines. The founder, coder and editor in chief of The Windy Citizen, Chicago’s newest news source, is a fella named Brad Flora. Flora’s concept is different. He is creating the sort of democratic, open news organization that could only exist online. He joined me for a beer on a fine and sunny afternoon in Old Town to talk shop.

Flora: The idea is to kind of run the Windy Citizen as a blog network with a news organization resting on top of it. And so the idea is to reach out to and recruit and gather together as many interesting, thoughtful voices here in Chicago — people who want to write about local issues, local ideas, local stuff, and to kind of gather them together in one place, writing on our site, and then to use them to kind of provide interesting, colorful coverage of local news events, by also kind of feeding in freelancers in kind of a distributed news network on top of it.

Boyer: In his vision, the Citizen is much more than an aggregator of blogs, it’s a place for news gatherers to, well, gather and do what they do best, to write stories about their city.

Flora: And we’re building a platform, rather than a newspaper, or rather than a magazine. You know, for instance, on Thursday, I got an email out of the blue with a pretty, a pretty hot tip. And I made some phone calls, to kind of look into it, and verify that this might be an interesting story. I kind of went through my rolodex of underemployed, hungry journalists in Chicago, and I assembled a strike team of people who are each now working on a piece of the story, for free, but in the hopes of, and in the interest, and in the love of reporting out a really awesome story. And it’s the kind of thing that, at the jobs that they’re able to get right now they might not get a crack at this kind of story, because it would go to the old guys, or the old women in the news room.

Boyer: There’s no shortage of young, hungry journalists in Chicago, and among them, Flora’s idea is catching on.

Flora: We have the benefit of it being kind of a contageous concept: This idea of you know, hey, if you want to write, now there is a place for you to go and write about local stuff, and you’ll be in a conversation with other people who are writing about local stuff. And you know, so far, people have responded really well to that.

Boyer: Beyond his rolodex, Flora’s trying to reach a new set of news gatherers, to borrow Dan Gillmor’s term, the former audience. He envisions the community writing the news outside of the newsroom — in groups and forums made available to Chicagoans so that they may organize themselves, and gather and spread the word — a sort of open source journalism. The experiment is how to make that work.

Flora: Yes. Yeah. There’s now, there’s an element of this that I still don’t understand, and don’t have a firm grasp on is, you know, what do you do when you get that tip? You know, if we were really open source, I’d publish that tip, and then I’d say, hey, you guys do what you want with it. And so, we’re still kind of feeling that out. And there may, you know, we’ve been talking with this story, we’re gonna, our plan is to have a couple days of coverage on it, and the first day is gonna be the story. Day two is gonna be video interviews with the main characters in the story. And then, day three is gonna be kind of looking at one of the side issues of the story, and how it impacts people here in Chicago. But then after that, I think, you know, we’re probably gonna toss up a blog post and say here’s what we don’t know. And then promote that pretty heavily to local bloggers and local writers and journalists even, and just see what people do with it.

UPDATE: I botched the spelling of Romenesko.  Also, in the interest of full disclosure — I am not affiliated with the Windy Citizen, though they have published my writing via the Medill News Service, and I have on occasion given Brad technical help, without compensation, since we’re both newsy nerds from Northwestern.

Journalists should care about net neutrality

If you value the free dissemination of ideas – if you believe that democracy requires a free press – if you prefer truth to truthiness – you should care about network neutrality.

First, the ever helpful sports metaphor.

You’re watching a Cubs game. It’s a nail biter – in the bottom of the ninth, your favorite slugger steps up to the plate, and the image goes wonky. From HD-sexy to YouTube-chunky. And the pitch! The audio goes crunchy. The video stops. You miss the home run.

Why did this happen? The Cubs are on WGN. Your cable provider, Comcast, has a competing sports channel that had just begun airing the White Sox game. Comcast dialed down the quality of WGN to give their channel more bandwidth, so that it would come in crystal clear.

Cubs fans run amok. The bars on Clark Street empty into the streets. Riots. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria! (Best. Movie. Ever.)

If only the network were neutral, all of this would have been avoided.

What is network neutrality?

Lawrence Lessig and Robert W. McChesney defined it well in their piece for the Washington Post.

Net neutrality means simply that all like Internet content must be treated alike and move at the same speed over the network. The owners of the Internet’s wires cannot discriminate. This is the simple but brilliant “end-to-end” design of the Internet that has made it such a powerful force for economic and social good: All of the intelligence and control is held by producers and users, not the networks that connect them.

Why should I care?

The Comcast example is totally plausible. Cable television doesn’t *quite* work how I described, but the Internet certainly does. And it’s happening right now!

Neil Berkett, the new CEO of Virgin Media (my ISP at home in London, along with BT) has announced that he considers Net Neutrality to be “a load of bollocks” and he’s promised to put any website or service that won’t pay Virgin a premium to reach its customers into the “Internet bus lane.”

What a jackass! The Internet is amazing because it lets all voices be heard. If this bozo gets his way, new media will become a tool of corporations. Citizen journalism and non-profit media are toast. No money? No speech.

And this applies to everything you do online: reading the news, listening to music, downloading porn, and calling grandma on Skype. I don’t know how to better put it. This is very important.

For more, check out Save the Internet, Tim Wu’s excellent network neutrality FAQ and my friend Adam Verwymeren’s blog on net neutrality, A Series of Tubes.


The Huffpo has an excellent piece about recent news that the MPAA and RIAA are working together with the ISPs to stifle net neutrality, under the guise of piracy prevention – don’t miss it.

Citing piracy concerns, Big Media has made its deal with broadband ISPs like Comcast to make sure its Internet video gets priority A-1 Express Lane carriage over the Internet. In exchange, they are supporting the ISPs’ fierce opposition to net neutrality rules that would bar them from pushing everyone else’s video into the Bus Lane, if they even deign to deliver it at all.

Reader helps Methods Reporter get the scoop on Chicago earthquake

At 4:36 a.m., a magnitude 5.4 earthquake shook the Midwest.

At 4:53 a.m., the Methods Reporter, an independent Chicago news site, had a story up saying there was a earthquake. At that point, Chicago Public Radio was reporting that the Chicago Police Department was receiving calls, but they had little other information. Google news had nothing.

At 4:58 a.m., a reader named Ed posted a comment to the story with a link to a map describing the earthquake, it’s magnitude, and the epicentre. They promptly ran the image and Methods Reporter had more information about the quake than any other news source.

At 7:00 a.m., Google Adwords was charging $0.10 for “chicago earthquake,” according to Brad Flora, the publisher of the Methods Reporter. Soon after his ad appeared, Chicago Public Radio and EveryBlock ads started to show up as well, but neither were running a story, as of 7:10 a.m.

Update: At 7:37 a.m., Flora said that Adwords had brought in 23 clicks, costing him a total of about 4 dollars. His is a perfect example of how journalism can be done on a shoestring. Methods Reporter runs on WordPress, the same, excellent free and open source software that’s the platform for this and many other blogs and news sites.