Citizen action: partnering with conventional news media
Citizen groups and citizen journalists are addressing social problems around the world. But they may still need traditional news organizations to help tell their stories.
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Many of the projects supported work to inform, enable, and strengthen communities. The Community Radio in India reduces the cost of creating rural radio stations. The Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker lets citizens serve as watchdogs for implementing the carbon tax. Ushahidi’s location-based mapping system was valuable in tracking crises in post-quake Haiti.Skip to next paragraph
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You could say that many of the Knight News Challenge winners are themselves a tad socially entrepreneurial. But several of this year’s winners in particular could meet a need that the social sector has had for years: to centralize all of its stuff – raw data, media, and motion – into something of narrative substance.
People understand new information and events when they're presented in context. A 2008 AP Study, for example, found that a story must have four components to satisfy news consumers: facts, back story, updates, and future story. That's part of the reason Mother Jones' traffic spiked 400 percent when it began producing explainers on the situation in Egypt earlier this year. People want, and need, to see the big picture.
But if there’s anything the social sector has in abundance, it’s scattered information:
- The Guardian’s global development data store, which consolidates info from seven international aid agencies, has 4,953 datasets.
- Ashoka has identified close to 3,000 social entrepreneurs; the organization reports that about 50 percent of its fellows have an impact on national policy within five years.
- Echoing Green has supported 500 fellows.
- DoSomething.org estimates it will reach 2 million youths in 2011.
- Idealist hosts nearly 63,000 organizations.
- WiserEarth, an online community for connecting changemakers, lists 54,632 members, 111,355 organizations, 8,835 “resources,” and 4,500 items –-organizations, events, jobs or people – in the greater New York City area alone.
That’s not even considering data from social impact metrics – a still-nascent area that’s quickly growing – and the media coming from blogs and Twitter accounts of development agencies and citizen-sector organizations.