This website is an initiative of J-Lab

Principles of Citizen Journalism

Resources: Where to find more information

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Accuracy
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Thoroughness
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Fairness
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Transparency
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Independence
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Resources

The team behind this project

SECTIONS

Accuracy & fact-checking
How to get it right

Thoroughness
Going the extra yard for information

Fairness
Treating opposing points of view with respect

Transparency
Disclosure a key ingredient in gaining trust

Independence
Following the story wherever it leads

Interviews
Tapping into the wisdom of the community

Resources
Where to find more information

Resources

Click on the link to go to the desired section:

> Accuracy & fact-checking
> Thoroughness
> Fairness
> Transparency
> Independence

Accuracy & fact-checking

Tips for Fact Checking - Web style Guide
Northern Ireland’s government gives advice on fact checking and ways to improve accuracy. Specifically, tips are offered for self-editing and fact checking, with emphasis on providing documentation and correctly publishing sources.

American Press Institute Fact-Checking Resources
Here’s a collection of links to resources that aid in fact checking. Though mainly pertaining to political issues and politicians, also included are language, biographical and geographical reference tools.

Media Fact Checker
Given a list of myths and actual facts, users are given the chance to pick out the true information and separate it from misinterpreted data. ResponsibleOpposing.com’s Media Fact Checker presents journalists and writers with examples of media hoaxes and exaggerations that are easily debunked through fact checking.

Fast Fact Check
The library in Arlington, Virginia, offers a list of resources for quick fact checking, mostly of a political nature. Categories of resources include political information, directories, and reference books and websites.

Poynter Online: Getting it Right - A Passion for Accuracy
Poynter Online offers not only many accuracy guidelines but also personal anecdotes and links to other websites to promote improved accuracy practices. In this article, Chip Scanlan offers practical advice to fellow journalists to increase the accuracy level of any piece.

O’Reilly Digital Media: 10 Journalism Tips for E-Writers
Even online journalists and bloggers sometimes need pointers on how to write a better story. These tips offer advice on accuracy and organization as well as several other related topics.

Publicity Hound’s Accuracy Tips
A short article that contains relevant tips for those engaging in interviews with contacts. Pre- and post-interview guidelines and checklists along with corresponding links to other helpful material are provided, as is a collection of suggestions about how a journalist should carry him/herself during an interview.

Is That a Fact?
Though designed primarily for students, journalists of any age can stand to benefit from the pointers and advice offered by Classroomtools.com. In addition, the site also offers 13 how-to examples of fact-checking and accuracy tests.

Accuracy in Media
Accuracy in Media strives “for fairness, balance and accuracy in news reporting” and posts several stories a week on various topics that illustrate this commitment. Unlike other sites, this page and its related content are best used as examples of accuracy in the media rather than as a collection of helpful hints and tips.

Thoroughness

J-Lab
J-Lab says it “helps news organizations and citizens use new information ideas ... to develop new ways for people to engage in critical public policy issues.” To this end, the site provides case studies of political issues from the media (many of these are multi-media and interactive), as well as blogs and podcasts with a similar function. Additionally, a half dozen examples of participatory content on websites are listed as a means of providing an example for those seeking to take the Web to the next level.

Brandeis University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism
Brandeis University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism provides case studies for citizen journalists who seek to promote thoroughness and accuracy in their work. Additionally, the site offers a special section for students, along with areas of emphasis that include political/social/gender justice projects and an examination of flaws in the mainstream media. Offline, the Institute also has internships devoted to budding citizen journalists, and offers programs in which students can learn more about investigative journalism and research techniques.

Diversity Toolbox
The Society of Professional Journalists provides a list of tips and recommendations for journalists trying to provide fair and balanced coverage of any story. “This is not at all about being politically correct; it’s about doing good journalism. Fair, accurate, balanced, solid and thorough journalism.”

Journalism and Mass Communication Resources
Combining links from dozens of websites and listing them under several distinct categories (CyberJournalism, Gender relations, Media Law, etc.), this site at the University of Iowa is an excellent starting point for citizen journalists who seek to learn more about the subjects of their stories. The wealth of links listed here provide a useful resource for the promotion of thorough and accurate writing.

Research Databases from CSU Long Beach
Though designed primarily for CSU Long Beach students, this site serves as a guide for various internet resources, databases to locate articles, and other research tools. The goal of the site is to “provide a comprehensive starting point for research in the field of journalism,” and to promote thoroughness in citizen journalism.

Research in Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon
This site is a repository for other databases that can help journalists in researching the topics of their stories. Pointers include not only web resources but also links to databases for finding scholarly articles, contacting experts and doing basic background research on almost any topic.

Journalist Express
The Journalist Express serves as a central collection of links to various news organizations and websites that can be used to obtain background information for a news article or story. Though the sources presented here are mainly in the mainstream media, a few citizen journalism and other sites are also present.

CyberJournalist.net SuperSearch
CyberJournalist.net’s SuperSearch feature allows users to easily comb through encyclopedia, major news sites, citizen journalist sites or major search engines to find out more about a subject. By condensing so many resources into a single page, the SuperSearch tool can be extremely useful for performing background research on almost any topic.

Web Resources for Journalists
Unlike other resource mongers, this site has links to online resources only. These range in type from search engines, to reporting tools, to legal resources to the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB). All are potentially useful tools for ensuring a greater degree of thoroughness and accuracy in citizen journalism.

Completeness and Exclusion in Journalism Ethics
This site provides a case study in which journalistic integrity and thoroughness were not maintained, and serves as an example of “what not to do.” While the article itself originates from the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, its implications and high regard for journalistic integrity are universal and equally applicable today.
 

Fairness

Webdiary Ethics
An Austrialian blogger presents his professional journalistic code of ethics in this piece. Though placed in the “Fairness” section, this article could rightly be placed under almost any of our modules due to its emphasis on all five principles that we hope citizen journalists will internalize. The code of ethics as presented here is in the form of two lists: one that the author expects from himself as a journalist, and the other of what he expects from his contacts. All tips presented are useful and encourage respect and fairness toward sources and fellow journalists alike.

Rethinking Objectivity
As authors such as Dan Gillmor maintain, objectivity in news reporting is nearly impossible to achieve. This article explores the ramifications of this perspective against the backdrop of the war on terror and other contemporary news issues. The piece’s author, Brent Cunningham, does not entirely dismiss the importance of objectivity to journalism (citizen and otherwise) but instead calls for a different kind of objectivity when pursuing highly contested media events.

Journalism and Objectivity
Fairness, journalism and objectivity are deconstructed from the point of view of a journalist blogger in this erudite essay. A comparison between forms of objectivity and fairness in more traditional forms of media and contemporary, internet journalism are presented as well.

Fairness.com
Fairness.com is an overarching website that includes dozens of links to news stories with case studies in media fairness. In their own words, “Fairness.com provides database resources, message boards, and searchable article links for exploring virtually any fairness-related topic.”

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
This website features articles exploring fairness in several categories, with dozens of real-life examples of unfair or unbalanced reporting. Topics include the war in Iraq, the conflict in the Middle East, and immigration in the United States. In addition to these case studies, the site also serves as a repository for articles in the media that are critical of current mass media biases.

AIM: Accuracy In Media
AIM is a citizen media group designed to encourage accuracy and balance in mass media as well as among grassroots groups. AIM provides case studies and commentaries as well as a host of regular columnists and blogs regarding the aforementioned journalistic practices. Though it lacks any list of tips for journalists seeking fairness and balance, the site makes up for this in the sheer volume and number of columns and examples presented.

Rhetorica:  Media and Political Bias
Rhetorica is devoted to detecting bias in the media and in politics. The site offers a checklist of “Critical Questions for Detecting Bias” as well as a structural breakdown of types of bias in the mass media. In addition, a theoretical approach to bias prevention and a raison d’etre for the practice of fairness assertion are offered.

The Hill.com:  Media fairness and elections
The Hill, the newspaper for and about Congress, presents a series of examples exposing and explaining political biases in the media, with commentary from both the conservative and liberal sides of the issue.

Common Dreams: Fairness and accuracy in reporting
Common Dreams offers another example of bias in the mass media from a political perspective. The media advisory presented here addresses problems with coverage of the Iraq War and examines the American response to revelations that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

The Free Press
The Free Press is an online news magazine devoted to promoting fairness in the media and to producing its own articles that meet a high degree of accuracy and balance. Putting out its own “columns and dispatches,” the Free Press addresses the issues of journalistic integrity while also presenting numerous case studies that demonstrate what to do and what not to do as a journalist.

Media Research Center
The Media Research Center offers not only case studies in media bias, but also assessments and extensive analyses of topics related to media balance and bias. Their “Media Bias Basics” walk users through the finer points of fairness in the media and each offers an extensive study on each topic complete with statistics and history. Notably, the site also offers a wealth of case studies in media bias through the use of posting videos, an exceptionally useful multimedia tool. The videos can be found here.

Fairpress.org: Citizens Coalition for Responsible Media
Fairpress.org examines bias in the media through blogs, case studies and the “Media Bias Outrage of the Week,” a column devoted to pointing out the most egregious acts of unbalanced coverage in the mass media. Notably, these also take the form of both video feeds and written articles, enhancing the multimedia quality of the site.

Media Awareness Network: How to Detect Bias in the News
Unlike other sites devoted to asserting and pointing out media biases, the Media Awareness Network instead offers guidelines and tips for aspiring journalists seeking to eliminate bias in their work, while also offering a checklist of ways in which both journalists and observers can find bias in the newspaper and online. Though the link here is only to a checklist/handout, other, similar articles are also available from the handout’s parent site.

AlterNet
AlterNet.org, a venerable site for exploring bias and accuracy problems with the mass media, has added a new dimension with AlterNet Video, a section of the site devoted to exposing bias from a multimedia perspective. The site may be useful not only in disseminating case studies in media biases, but also as a teaching tool, as the site provides a daily stream of articles and blogs devoted to the same ends.

Transparency

CyberJournalist.net: Media Transparency
Here’s a repository of resources for citizen journalists looking for more information in transparency in the mass media and among fellow bloggers and other citizen journalists. Additionally, the site features case studies as well as news articles related to the topics of transparency in blogging and citizen media reports.

Media Matters
Media Matters is a progressive website that aims to “systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation” and bias. To this end, the site presents numerous examples of conservative influence over the mainstream media through several different forms of presentation: video, audio and print. These case studies are integral to citizen journalists seeking to point out (or avoid) the biases inherent in the mainstream media.

FEMA’s Dirty Little Secret
A trailer park housing refugees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina serves as a backdrop for this case study, as it examines the topic of transparency in news reports originating with the federal government. As part of the interview, the issue of press freedom is delved into, and readers can choose mp3, streaming video or written transcripts as their medium of choice for learning more.

SPJ: Freedom of Information
This section of the Society of Professional Journalists’ website is devoted to opening government records to scrutiny. To this end, it provides links and resources to journalists regarding government cover-ups and the like. The site also provides a case study of reporters covering stories in prisons as a means of demonstrating a lack of transparency and how to get around it.

How Mass Media Simulate Political Transparency
This academic essay from Yale University examines the lack of transparency in the mass media. Through the use of case studies and examples (with special emphasis on political scandals), the site demonstrates the causes and effects of a lack of transparency in the major news reporting organizations in the United States.

Media Transparency: The Money Behind Conservative Media
Media Transparency (now known as the Bridge Project) lists articles citing sources of funding for Republican and conservative Christian groups, and demonstrates through case studies the negative effects this funding has on mainstream media outlets. Additionally, the site provides a history of conservative manipulation of the media and a database containing hundreds of grants given by conservative organizations to media groups and think tanks.

Transparency Now
An eclectic mix of video, sound and written articles, Transparency Now examines the issues of funding and bias in film/TV as well as the press. Composed almost entirely of former journalist Ken Sanes’ essays, the site also contains examinations of pop culture in relation to American society as a special section devoted to simulation and transparency in the mass media.

Accuracy, Transparency and Fairness
Using Indonesia as a case study of a nation in which the accuracy, transparency and fairness journalism are not present in journalism outlets, UCLA’s AsiaMedia institute gives tips and pointers to journalists in the United States through the use of the Indonesian media as a foil. Though brief, the article also chronicles why bias occurs as well as its effects on the public when media transparency is non-existent.

Case Study in Media Corruption
Though difficult to understand for those not directly involved with internal medicine, presented here is a “case study of media corruption” with regards to the pharmaceutical industry and Readers Digest. It examines the links between funding of advertisements and the featuring of books that promote advertisers’ products in the magazine.

Methods and Bias of the Media
In this essay, Kuro5hin.org poster Michael Leza examines bias in the media through a comparison of mainstream sitcoms and other fictional, staged television programs. “What many of these same people are not aware of (and how could they be?) is that when they sit down to watch the nightly news, or their favorite artificial news-flavored product, they are in fact watching a show that has been just as managed, planned, and scripted as any episode of Seinfeld was.”

Center for Media and Democracy
Investigative journalism and the influence of politics on mass media are the focus of the CMD. As part of its PR Watch tool, the CMD presents case studies of journalism in which bias and a lack of transparency are both evident and detrimental. The site says, “The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media ‘of, by and for the people.’”

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Both accuracy and transparency are of paramount importance in citizen journalism, and this site attempts to tackle both these issues in regard to journalism and the Middle East. Despite its geographic focus, the site is a virtual repository for case studies of mass media biases.

Media Lens
Similar to many other sites on this list, Media Lens focuses on “correcting the distorted vision of the corporate media” in major stories around the world. Specifically, the site targets the BBC, though it also offers criticism of the U.S. news media and offers tips and insights from a number of bloggers whose works are posted on the site.

What’s Wrong With the News?
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting offers a critical assessment of the mainstream media, dividing examples of bias and a lack of transparency into nine categories as well as case studies and analyses of bias, though the site does not offer any specific tips for citizen journalists regarding transparency.

Journalism, Transparency and the Public Trust
Here’s an academic analysis of transparency in the mass media, and its effects on the public. Most importantly, the study deals with the issues of blogs and transparency. It also includes recommendations for improving transparency in the media and examines the implications of a public that has no access to a dialogue with the mass media.

Independence

Freedom Forum
Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to a free press and free speech, collects and analyzes articles gleaned from the mainstream media. Its utility as a repository of articles is aided in part by the fact that the site also has a separate set of links related to the upholding of First Amendment rights and journalistic independence. With additional links to the First Amendment Center  and Newsroom Diversity Programs, the site provides services to journalists aside from research tools.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Focusing mainly on journalists themselves rather than the stories they cover, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press promotes journalistic integrity and independence in the face of intimidation from the mass media and the government. Mainly a collection of articles related to journalists and their exploits, the site also provides guidelines on how to access juvenile courts and electronic records, a guide to state-by-state phone taping laws and other sections that may be helpful to journalists seeking greater independence.

Poynter Online: The Value of Independence
Poynter author Bob Steele gives advice and pointers to journalists seeking to promote a higher degree of independence in their work. Pulling from two sources, including from the Society of Professional Journalists, Steele offers citizen journalists advice on what it means to be an independent reporter and steps that can be taken to enhancing credibility while also upholding ethical journalistic standards.

http://www.journalism.org=" ">Journalism Tools
Journalism.org has an extensive section of tools for citizens, professional journalists, students and teachers on independence and the other foundation topics.  While not focused on citizen media, these link provide advice and examples from professionals and major media organizations such as CBS that are easily adaptable.

Inside BBC Journalism: Independence
As part of its series on journalistic integrity and ethics, the BBC presents this module on independence, which chronicles the importance of the ideal as applied to the BBC’s many reporters. As related through numerous case studies, the section “examines how BBC journalists strive to make programmes independently of commercial, political and other interests” in order to provide the public with a factual, unbiased view on world events.

Journalistic Integrity and Independence of the Press
Journalistic independence is applied to Africa through two case studies in this document from Stanhopecentre.org that chronicles the struggle to first create and then preserve an independent media in three east African nations. The document contains a list of duties for independent journalists.

The Fund for Independence in Journalism
A non-profit organization aimed at providing for and supporting investigative reporting, the Fund for Independence in Journalism helps fund various programs designed to counter the efforts of the mainstream media to introduce bias into journalism. The site provides a list of facts, each of which chronicles an instance in which politics took precedence over journalistic integrity and the news story that emerged was steeped in bias. The site also chronicles press intimidation, control of information and sponsored news.

A Handbook of Reuters Journalism
Reuters provides its own guidelines and advice for journalists seeking to provide balanced and independent reporting of current events. Independence is “crucial to Reuters’ ability to report on companies, institutions and individuals in the financial markets, many of whom are also their customers, without regard for anything other than accuracy, balance and the truth.” As with the guidelines set forth by CBS, these are not originally designed with citizen journalists in mind, though they are readily applicable.

Digital Independence
While most sites promote the formation or upkeep of independent media outlets, the Digitalindies.com site serves as a helpful resource for independent and citizen journalists. The small site is devoted primarily to two topics: globalization blowback and independent media. With its emphasis on digital media, however, the site’s true value lies in its collection of links to other resources that might be of use to citizen journalists.

The Media’s Independence Problem
As part of the World Policy Journal, author Jonathan Mermin uses the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example of non-independent media and the problems associated with having journalists colluding with the military and government when writing their stories or reporting. Focusing on the First Amendment’s provision for an independent press, Mermin explores the journey of the American mass media from an independent entity to one dependent on the government for its information and funding.

The Rise of Media Independence
This article by blogger-journalist Doc Searls in the technology publication Linux Journal is important for its examination of media as a one- or two-way interaction between journalists and the public. While the author encourages efforts to increase media independence, he also recognizes that today’s media is anything but that and makes suggestions for reforms. The article is also important for its emphasis on news that can be consumed or produced with equal ease, a topic of definite interest and importance to citizen journalists.

Celebrating Media Independence
An editorial in the alternative publication the Berkeley Daily Planet, this piece decries criticism of articles in the New York Times that are themselves highly critical of the Bush administration’s policies after 9/11. The author calls for greater oversight of politicians and a loosening of the reins currently used to keep the mass media in the service of those in power. Though it features no pointers or tips, the essay is valuable for its insights into the contemporary media’s role in restricting public information access.

Independent Media Center
The Independent Media Center describes itself as “a collective of independent media organizations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage.” The site both encourages and provides examples of independent news media that are not part of larger media conglomerates, and also features an option that allows users to publish their own stories or videos on the site, a priceless tool for citizen journalists seeking to get their story out.

Other citizen media resources

J-Learning
Numerous online journalism tutorials related to reporting and the Web.

News U
Run by the non-profit Poynter Institute, it has a number of good, free online journalism courses open to everyone.

Personal Media Learning Center
A good resource containing interviews with citizen media pioneers, summaries of media law and more.

EditTeach.org
A site funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with many resources for editors, as well as a growing online section.

Investigative Reporters Resource Center
The center offers tips on developing leads and using public records. You can also buy cleaned public data from them if you’re interested. Check out the IRE listserv as well.

Reporters Cookbook
A wiki with how-tos, particularly related to computer-assisted reporting.

Also see articles bookmarked on these topics at del.icio.us. If you would like to contribute additional pointers to these topics in our del.icio.us section, let us know, or post them below.
 

Photos across top of page (from left to right) by Rob Milsom, Tom Magliery, Elaine Yeung, Stefan Jansson, Geren W. Mortensen, Jr., John Cumisky