Citizen's helping citizens: citizen-sourcing the news

Citizen-self-sourcing is taking hold among Hamilton’s twitter community. Increasingly, citizens are connecting each other to information such as details about power outages, traffic incidents, and police-related activity.

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This is great for civic society, and while not apparent, it is good for journalism

Citizen-self-sourcing vs. crowd-sourcing

The distinction between self-sourcing and crowd-sourcing is crowd-sourcing has a organizational structure guiding towards a set of goals – which need not be well defined.

Self-sourcing has little or no structure, it’s a series of individual initatives leading towards a collective result.

How is citizen-self-sourcing good for journalism?

Old journalism as a whole tends to see citizens as either competition or to be co-opted instead of another ‘C’ – our community.

These kind of ‘now’ stories are low-hanging fruit, often missed, or covered after the fact. Citizens reporting them allows journalists to focus less on the individual event and more on what the trends related to and systematic causes of the event. This is good for journalism, it allows journalists to focus on providing higher-value content.

Citizen also inform journalists. This morning power interruptions were covered by local media outlets after they became aware from Twitter. Without citizens tweeting, the story would be missed.

Saturday’s power outage quickly pinpointed

Over the weekend, a Rosedale power outage was quickly tweeted by affected citizens, another person pinpointed the cause – a car accident. Shortly after this, someone tweeted the extent of the power outage using publicly available information for the Horizon Utilities website.

The process of determining what happened did not involve any journalists, nor did it need to. This is the new information landscape and I think it’s great.