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Date

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UK: The Guardian uses the citizen journalist to great effect in Expenses Scandal

UK: The Guardian uses the citizen journalist to great effect in Expenses Scandal

The Expenses Files may have been a major journalistic coup for the Telegraph- boosting its reputation for investigative journalism and circulation figures, but the Guardian is determined to have its share of the scandal cake. Last week the Guardian launched a 'groundbreaking crowd-sourcing exercise' in which they invited its online readers to help filter the myriad of data on MP's expenses, which was recently released by the government.

The project is entirely web based. The documents, numbering at present 457153 pages, have been uploaded onto a specifically designed section of the Guardian's website, facilitated by the use of a new web framework. Those interested are invited to create an account and analyse a document presented as un-researched. It is then up to the reader to decide if it is 'interesting', along Guardian guidelines: "food bills, repeated claims for less than £250 (the limit for claims not backed up by a receipt), and rejected claims". Next, the reader has to copy out individual entries, make observations as to why specific claims require 'further scrutiny' and the push the 'investigate this' button. The rest is left to the Guardian team. The project is still developing, and more pages relating to different MPs are due to be uploaded soon.

The Guardian reports that the "response has been enormous and the results intriguing". Indeed, by Sunday, almost 20,000 people had signed up to 'review' the documents and have already worked through 160 000 pages of expenses claims. The very nature of the project is indicative of the Guardian's apparent regard for the involvement of the non-journalists in aiding the investigative process. The paper, like several of its counterparts, has apparently adapted a policy of accommodation of to the eagerness of 'citizen journalists', particularly in fact finding missions. The activity, however, has certainly not been accepted by all in the industry, as the Guardian didn't hesitate to point out:

"<the results pulled out by the readers> Shows the power of "citizen journalists" and provides something of a riposte to one Telegraph commentator who dismissed the idea that a "collective of Kool-Aid slurping Wikipedians" could conduct "rigorous analysis necessary for the recent MPs' expenses investigation"."

This scandal has thrown the topic of investigative reporting and the surveillance role played by newspapers back in the centre of discussion. The use of the 'crowd-sourcing' methods has allowed the Guardian to leave its own mark on the story, as newspapers across the UK fight to get on the expenses bandwagon in the Telegraph's wake. The concept of amateur involvement, despite some fears, does not look set to descend into an unrestrained party; when led by online newspapers, the activitiy is often contained within set guidelines. The results thrown up by Guardian readers, indicatively, will then be submitted to 'careful analysis', presumably by the editorial team before conclusions are drawn.

Source: The Guardian

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Links

Author

Christie Silk

Date

2009-06-22 11:50

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.


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