How journalism students are redefining news…

What does the 18 – 25 demographic consider the best news websites for citizen journalists? This week I sat in on some presentations by first year journalism students. Here are their top picks:

Wikileaks

All Voices

CBSeyemobile

VBS TV

Buy it like you mean it

Frontline

Drudge Report

Although each group rated a different site as its first choice, a number of common themes emerged, including what these students didn’t like in a website:

  • Hard to navigate and read
  • Dated or had missing information (eg. empty pages)
  • Posted content that was poorly written
  • Loaded with obtrusive advertising – pop-ups, commercials you can’t skip
  • Provided no real rewards for participation — CTV ‘s two-mugs-a-month handed out to contributors was seen as a joke
  • Informative but dry
  • Doesn’t categorize stories of a similar nature in the same area/under the same thumbnail

What they did like:

  • Stories about things you don’t see on traditional websites
  • Allows you to participate without creating an account – that was a big sticking point
  • Easy to use search functions
  • Geo-locating of stories
  • Variety of stories & perspectives
  • Technologically accessible – you can text in pictures & stories
  • Data visualization of content
  • Provides help for citizen journalists to turn a story idea into an actual story
  • Links to facebook and Twitter
  • Allows you to personalize the page

And what I was pleasantly surprised they wanted:

  • Some kind of moderation to ensure high standards
  • Context/lots of information in stories
  • Transparency, accountability, accuracy
  • Independent, but links to mainstream sites

Frustration was expressed over CTV’s My News and Your Voice at CBC. The students felt much of the content was repetitive on My News and that anything and everything was posted – submissions weren’t moderated to ensure high quality. Their perception about CBC’s Your Voice was that there wasn’t much to it  – they wanted more than a page with a few links, comments, and poll results.

Although not ranked number one, CNN’s iReport and Ohmy News were both given kudos for giving ordinary citizens opportunities and assistance to cover stories, not just comment on them.

I’ll let you investigate the sites listed above on your own, but my news sensibilities were challenged by Buy It Like You Mean It. It’s a consumer site that gives information on making ethical purchases. Soon you’ll be able to take a picture of a bar code on a product and send it to the site.  While you’re still shopping you can find out if what you want to buy is good for you and the planet.

At first I thought, well that’s great, but it’s not a news website. Then I began to consider the fact that the site is well researched and jam-packed with information people want and, could be argued, need. Maybe I’m the one who should reframe my understanding of what news is.

And maybe traditional broadcasters need to reframe their perceptions of what this young audience wants – not just to be passive viewers, but active participants in the news process.

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2 thoughts on “How journalism students are redefining news…

  1. Excellent list. My students at Centennial/U of T Scarb. would likely agree. One thing they sense very quickly is when a website panders to the public, rather than engages them. Some websites tend to take on the cultural assumptions of the MSM, possibly in order to give themselves more cred, when in fact it does just the opposite.

  2. I’m surprised that AlterNet and Indymedia.org didn’t it to the list. Indymedia seems to have quite a few chapters across Canada and the US.

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