App Review: Guardian Witness – crowd sourcing journalism

Alex Walls
April 26, 2013


Guardian News and Media

Free on Apple iOS and Android

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The crowd sourcing of journalism has begun.

Guardian Witness is an app for Android and Apple iOS which allows registered users to ‘contribute’ to Guardian content. What this means is that the Guardian can effectively crowd source much of its journalism, or images at the very least, by getting vox pops, or immediate public comment, on story ideas, as well as what could be good quality photos and videos for free that it can use in news stories.

Not that this is necessarily a bad or abusive thing; if people wish to contribute they can, and if selected, they can see their names in print, and since Guardian is not allowed to use the content in third Photo 3party marketing or advertising campaigns (but can use it for in house advertising), and users are credited for their contributions (quite rightly), it could be a good opportunity for budding photo journalists
or camera persons to get some free experience under their belt, and for people to see their name on the Guardian site.  It’s also an opportunity to express your view somewhere you know it will be at least read for moderation, with the possibility of informing and influencing a national media outlet.

However while the app’s FAQs state the Guardian can’t use your content in third party marketing campaigns and that copyright belongs to the submitter, it also states that you are granting the paper not only permission to use the content as it sees fit, which pragmatically shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve submitted it with your eyes open, but also authorisation to allow third parties to use the content, meaning if another broadcaster wants to use your photo, the site would “endeavour, but would not be bound, to contact contributors”, including for any possible revenue sharing arrangements.  This seems fairly standard fare – if you can’t contact a contributor but someone else is on deadline, you need a get out clause handy.

The FAQs section lays out everything I could think of to ask about the site and how it works clearly, and is a main tab, so props to the app for having the information all there, simply written and in a prominent place.

The app is very simply and attractively laid out, and it’s easy to contribute by selecting the ‘Contribute’ tab and choosing your given assignment, medium and title/caption.  Contribution

Contributions are moderated, but appear fairly quickly – mine was up on roughly the same day I entered it, and contributions are moderated on relevance, quality and standards of behaviour.  And once your contribution goes up on the site, you get a bit of a vicarious journalistic thrill – “I’m on the  Guardian  (kind of)!”

The ‘Browse’ tab lets you sift through all the assignments and stories the site is offering for contribution at the moment, and it’s quite interesting to see what people around the world are saying about any given topic; one of the sadder and more eye opening assignments was how the government cuts have affected people’s lives, with tales of a change jar, once given to charity, now used to make ends meet, local libraries being closed, someone trying to live on a bottle of milk and some hummus for a week, music lessons no longer available for kids, and on the brighter side, someone rediscovering nature as a way to have fun.

So sure, the Guardian’s getting a bit of free labour but heck, it’s an enjoyable and easy way to have your say and maybe see your name in lights.

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