The greatest thing I learned in gradeschool was teamwork. I got in trouble for stealing toys and crayons and was forced to go on “playdates” with my neighbors. On top of it all, I was a girl scout. I wore brown trousers held to my waist by a thin strip of elastic, and a button-up shirt with a too-tight collar.
From early mornings at school to late nights selling cookies, I learned how to be a part of a team. I found out that I could accomplish much more with the help of my friends, family and peers. When I teamed up with my neighbor Liz to sell cookies, I sold dozens more and even got a badge for it.
A cookie badge, can you believe it?!
Now, as a budding journalist, I reflect on this lesson to a much larger scale. With teamwork, I can create stories that get more cookie badges than Oprah’s audience members get TV’s.
What I’m trying to say is this: a journalist can’t report the truth without a wide network of sources.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, crowdsourcing is one of the most powerful ways to advance collective knowledge. It not only gathers the perspectives, opinions and facts of others citizens, but it is often self-correcting. The journalist can rely on communities to weed out trolls and offer their most honest version of truth. And, with a bit more investigation, journalists can develop stories that would not have been possible without the public network.
One of the greatest examples of this is Paul Lewis’s Ted Talk on citizen journalism. By harnessing the power of social media, Lewis was able to investigate two deaths and persuade authorities that they were, in fact, murders. Lewis gathered eyewitness testimony, photos and videos via Twitter to eventually convict the men responsible for the crimes.
Likewise, journalist Brian Conley’s Ted Talk focuses on the power of local media. Through experiences in India and Afghanistan, Conley has connected with local people that want to tell their stories.
“They have no reason to feel positive about their lives,” he said, “Yet they’re really doing it. They really wanna make media. They really wanna tell their stories. And the question is whether or not you and other people will listen.”
He said that we can help people tell their stories by using new technologies, like cell phones, to connect with one another online. Citizen journalism, in this way, is the new form of journalism. It is changing the way people give and receive news.
I agree with both Lewis and Conley. We must utilize networks and involve the public to make news and tell meaningful stories. Although this requires teamwork between strangers, I think it is the most powerful and necessary type of teamwork.
By connecting with strangers online, citizen journalists can discover the truth together. Without collaboration, each news story will be one-sided and may ignore key details.
Without teamwork, journalists forgo the opportunity to create something revolutionary. Instead, they settle for a story that’s easy and ordinary like the “natural” death of a man that was actually a murder.
Sharing stories and networking online is like selling girl scout cookies. It’s easier with a team.