Category Archives: Citizen Journalism

Vote For iReporter, Gerard Braud

I’ve met Gerard Braud, when I sat in a workshop he conducted some years back. He’s a reporter’s reporter, who knows the ins and outs of working ina  newsroom.

Gerard has been nominated for a CNN iReport award, and I highly recommend him. If you feel inclined, watch this video of his short, succing iReport on Hurricane Isaac. Then, please take a few seconds to cast a vote for him.

Hurricane Isaac iReport - Gerard Braud

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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Citizen Journalism, TV


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Update on my book: “Chat Republic”

It’s official, and I’m now ready to announce the title of my book, which is in its final stages.

It’s called Chat Republic.

Angelo Fernando, Chat RepublicI’ve been covering the intersection of technology and business; technology and culture for more than 18 years. More recently, I’ve focused on digital media and our social media-centric lives, and I wanted to put my ideas into perspective.

Chat Republic is more than a fictional country. It’s about the spaces you inhabit.  Those online and offline communities you move in and out of: conference rooms, Google Circles, IM lists, Facebook, online forums. I think of it as a ‘country’ whose fluid borders take the shape of a giant, invisible speech bubble.

The conversations and opinions pouring in and out of our republic, in real-time, are what make our communities more civil, more vibrant. Our chats are certainly not friction-free! But absent these conversations we would be one dimensional citizens, won’t we?

As of today, I am planning to launch the book in two time zones, in June.

Some specs:

  • 25 Chapters – Divided into 3 sections
  • Case Studies from the U.S. and Asia
  • Interviews with non-profits, tech companies, activists, chief execs, editors, citizen journalists, PR consultants, podcasters, government officials

More information here at


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The media are changing. And you?

In 1999 (before we many of us began thinking deeply about the role of the Internet on the media as we know it), USAID foresaw a trend, or rather a need for citizens to be able to “make informed decisions and counter state-controlled media.”

They talked of nurturing ‘alternative media,’ which at that time made many people uncomfortable. Mainstream media journalists, especially, thought that this would be lead to erosion in standards.

USAID may have never dreamt that something called social media would sow up and deliver this ‘alternative’ into our laps. Later, in 2005, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which tracks newspaper reading habits, recorded a curious shift. They observed that people were turning away from traditional news outlets, particularly those “with their decorous, just-the-facts aspirations to objectivity.” And what were they gravitating toward? They were turning toward “noisier hybrid formats that aggressively fuse news with opinion or entertainment, or both.”

News infused with opinion? That sounded like heresy!

Not anymore! Dozens of news organizations have begun using a combination of social networking, citizen journalism and traditional reporting to do just that.

I mentioned Internews. It may not be ‘noisy,’ but it is definitely a hybrid format. Internews is an international ‘media development organization’ that empowers local media worldwide. Meaning it not only becomes a distribution channel for global voices, but it gives people the tools to connect, and thereby be heard.

A similar organization, Global Voices, is a nonprofit foundation comprising an international team of volunteer authors, and others who are active in the blogosphere. In fact, one of its divisions, Lingua plays a sort of the amplifier role. Lingua, it says, “amplifies Global Voices stories in languages other than English with the help of volunteer translators.” They translate content into more than 15 languages.

Pew’s recent State of The News Media Report talks of how media consumption in a world of increasing mobile devices  forces news companies to follow some messy rules (of device makers, for instance) to deliver their content. The news ecology is getting uneven, it says.

This is where hybrid, alternative media has taken root. Let’s get used to it!

A longer version of this is published in LMD magazine.


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Inconvenient truths about Citizen journalists

Are you rooting for mainstream journalism or the grassroots variety?

How about both? One has the training. The other has the temperament. One has the credibility. The other has access. Mainstream journalism and citizen journalism are shaking hands, and the consequences may be very interesting for the media we consume and our role as potential collaborators.

We typically think of citizen journalists as these accidental reporters –those who in the face of a catastrophic event, grab a cell-phone, and capture a story that would have otherwise never been recorded. We recall the first heartbreaking reports of the 2004 tsunami captured by citizens in Sri Lanka. Commuters, not trained reporters, provided the first grainy videos when terrorist bombed subways and buses in London in 2005. Likewise, the first images of the dramatic ‘splash landing’ of an U.S Airways flight into the Hudson river in Manhattan, New York, were captured by a citizen journalist.

Today, we are witnessing the rise of a new breed of reporters, an ‘accidental profession’ that has begun to turn more professional (‘Pro’) than amateur (‘Am’).

Some ex-journalists and entrepreneurs have spotted opportunities in this space and have begun to create business models, albeit non-profit businesses. One of them, The Uptake (,  is a citizen ‘fueled’ news organization. Chuck Olsen, co-founder of The Uptake calls it ‘committing an act of journalism.’ Meaning, going out there and finding the story, not reacting to it.

Mohammed Nabbous, killed in Benghazi, Libya in March 2011, was one of the bravest citizen journos of our time, killed while uploading a story. Check out a video of these last moments at In the last part of this video you can sense he is terribly impatient, waiting as a large file uploads from his camera.

“Where is the media?” he asks, rhetorically, with gunfire just outside his door.  It does not strike him that he was “The Media’ –an Am behaving like, and filling the void of, a Pro.

Today many mainstream news organizations have embedded elements of citizen journalism, often training their reporters to use the tools that the Ams take for granted. BBC, for instance is training its reporters to use iPhone apps to file stories. This month, The New York Times opened up a story for citizen participation in making sense of a boatload of email records (24,199) from Sarah Palin. “We’re asking readers to help us identify interesting and newsworthy e-mails, people and events that we may want to highlight.

You could find a broader discussion of this evolving Pro-Am model in an upcoming article.


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Wikipedia appears to beat media in Chilean miner rescue

By chance I checked Wikipedia on the Chilean  miner rescue operation underway now (9.15 PM Pacific), and was pleasantly surprised to see two things going on:

The first was that Wikipedians are updating the site faster that Google results of news of the rescue operation.

San Jose Mercury News, Yahoo and others come up on search for ‘miner rescue’ with news

that one miner has been rescued.

Wikipedians noted that there have been two miners brought to the surface.

It took about another 10 minutes for the rest of the media reports to show up with this detail.

Meanwhile CBS News is streaming video via Ustream!

The second curious phenomenon will probably be discussed at length in the weeks after this. In what is clearly a sign of the times, where everyone is now a reporter,  the video from the mine captures at least two of the trapped miners photographing (or videoing maybe?) the event that they are part of!

Who’s watching what here? Who’s updating whom here? This is breaking news, and the subjects are reporting the story!


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Flickr shows its collaborative power in Haiti disaster

I talk of Collaboration as one of the 4 legs of social media. Usually I use positive examples such as Spot.Us and a host of other experiments.

But as the horrors of the scale of the disaster in Haiti stream in, through citizen journalists, there’s one site to keep watching: Flickr.

Check this Group Pool, where everyone on the ground with a camera of sorts is helping record the event, sharing their resources. Images such as this one will fill our screens and lives in the next few weeks, thanks to them.

A note of caution: Some of these can be disturbing.



Is content still king? Or is there a new crown prince?

This morning I am participating in a web video conference for the US embassy in Sri Lanka on how to think about social media.

My working title for this is ”Think Outside the Blog,’ considering how blogs have become the center of gravity for so much of what we do –what we produce, consume, how we distribute, connect, and participate in the so-called link economy.

I therefore will be digging deeper, and framing it around Cocktail Conversations –how web 2.0 (which has infected our listening and speech faculties) lets us communicate in a very crowded room.

Why is the room crowded? First because everyone is gate crashing the party! It ‘s not just crowded, but noisy because everyone –and not just PR people, journalists and marketers– has a voice. Unfortunately everyone has arrived at the party with a megaphone, rather than an antenna. As such in social media (as in social life!) the best communicators are the best listeners.

But I will also be broaching the topic of whether content is still king. I hear this all the time, at new media hangouts, writing seminars etc. I don’t dispute that cointent is VERY important (the alternative is fluff) but we don’t give enough respect to context. It’s way too easy to come up with, and deliver content. Context takes more work.

Another way to think about this topic is to think about who really has a voice today? In the market economy, those who had the money to run ads and PR campaigns controlled the conversation. In the link economy there are new contenders to the throne.


Quotes for the week ending 11 April, 2009

“How dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent?”

Paul Jacobs, resident of a small town of  Broughton in England, protesting Google’s roving camera van that captures street views of towns and cities for enhanced Googls Maps.

“We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.”

Post by Blogger Bob on the TSA Web site, Evolution of Security, clearing up the sticky issue of whether a camera can get you in trouble at an airport. Many airports ban photography.

“I did not eat my own dog food. Why? Because the book industry still works well enough to pay me an advance. Dog’s gotta eat, you know.”

Jeff Jarvis, in an interview with Steve Rubel, on his new book, What would Google Do. He also confesses that in seeking this old-media attention he is a sort of a hypocrite, but…

“We acknowledge that… in this world, in an increasingly cyber world, these are increasing risks.”

Janet Napolitano, Secretary US Homeland Security, on the news that the US power grid could have been infiltrated by foreign spies.

“I don’t believe in work/life balance at all. I think our professional and personal lives are converging as such a fast pace …there will be no separation in the future.”

Dan Schawabel, in an interview with Rohot Bhargava about personal branding


The risk of blogging will only increase

Journalists-turned-bloggers know the risks involved, because they understand the laws of libel and defamation. But there is a wide range of risks involved when it comes to political blogs –from simply getting beaten up, to being on a black list, to a frivolous lawsuit.

I came across two this week — a week that has seen live blogging from the congressional hearings of Bernie Madoff–  that speaks to this risky business.

Last year, we saw a spate of attacks on bloggers aross the world. Iran, China, and whenever one group finds itself under the scrutiny of bloggers. What’s next? Lawsuits filed against Twitter users? Going after people filing video iReports?

Those who cannot easily threaten and muzzle traditional media suddenly find it much easier to bully someone –usually it is an individual, not a syndicated blog — engaged in social media . The laws will have to adapt fast as the lines between old and new media blur.



Quotes for the week ending 24 January, 2009

“Citizen participation will be a priority…”

Macon Philips, White House’s director of new media, in a blog post a few seconds after Barack Obama took oath as the nation’s 44th president on Tuesday.

“Communication. Transparency. Participation”

The first message on the web site that switched over on Tuesday at noon., spelling out the details why ‘change has come to’

“an excellent example of witness media and pro media cooperation. It’s not about the ‘versus.’”

Steve Safran, quoted in an article about the evolution of ‘eyewittness journalism’

“Inaugural speeches serve two purposes. They are designed to heal whatever rough roads people had to go down to get elected. The other purpose is to lay out the agenda and the key metaphors for what’s to come-and hopefully to induce people to cooperate.”

John Adams, Colgate Speaking Union @Colgate University, quoted in

“You must find ways to spread – in a new manner – voices and pictures of hope, through the internet, which wraps all of our planet in an increasingly close-knitted way.”

Pope Benedict XVI, on the Vatican’s launch of a channel on YouTube.

“Obama gets a thumbs-up for his Blackberry.”

Headline of a series of articles that celebrated the fact that the ‘tech president’ gets his way in being able to step out of the communications bubble. Only a few people will have his email address, the White House says.

“Twitter IS a massive time drain. It IS yet another way to procrastinate … But it’s also a brilliant channel for breaking news, asking questions, and attaining one step of separation from public figures you admire.”

New York Times Tech columnist, David Pogue about how he’s learning to use Twitter


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