All of our typologies position journalists as what former BBC journalist and media scholar Charlie Beckett called enablers of content rather than privileged gatekeepers.21 And they acknowledge the position of Daren Brabham from USC-Annenberg that crowdsourcing is not just a hobby. Real work gets done. In architecting types, we wrestled with whether to arrange efforts by goals (the overall objective of the effort) or tasks (the calls to action needed to reach that objective). In truth, nearly every example of crowdsourcing has overlapping tasks and goals. And despite different models, “the community strategy is the same: increase participation by serving a target audience with original content that they find helpful and useful,” said ProPublica’s Zamora.
One thing our list makes clear: News organizations are creating entry points for audience input at every stage of the crowdsourcing process—from story assigning, to pre-data collection, data mining, sharing specialized expertise, collecting personal experiences, and continuing post-story conversations.
So while we acknowledge that projects don’t fit neatly into discrete classifications, we’ve devised the following categories based on the invitation to contribute, or call to action:
Voting—prioritizing which stories reporters should tackle.
Witnessing—sharing what you saw during a breaking news event or natural catastrophe.
Sharing personal experiences—divulging what you know about your life experience. “Tell us something you know that we don’t know.”
Tapping specialized expertise—contributing data or unique knowledge. “We know you know stuff. Tell us the specifics of what you know.”
Completing a task—volunteering time or skills to help create a news story.
Engaging audiences—joining in call-outs that range from informative to playful.