Collaborative journalism is a mode of journalism where multiple reporters or news organizations, without affiliation to a common parent organization, report on and contribute news items to a news story together. It is practiced by both professional and amateur reporters.
Collaborative journalism involves the aggregation of information from numerous individuals or organizations into a single news story. Information is gathered through research or reporting, or added when readers examine, comment and build upon existing stories. Stories from the mainstream media are often built upon. Depending on the system of collaboration, individuals may also provide feedback or vote on whether an article is newsworthy. A single collaborative news story, therefore, may encompass multiple authors, varying articles, and ranged perspectives.
Collaborative journalists either contribute directly to stories, sometimes through a wiki-style collaboration platform, or build upon the story externally, often through personal blogs. Collaborative journalists develop or examine a story one piece at a time. This contrasts the deadline and completion-centered nature of traditional media. A story is built upon continually, and a popular story may receive daily updates. Through combined authorship, collaborative journalism is thought by some to offer an increased independence of thought and experience unavailable to traditional media.
Successful collaborative journalism projects require a participatory community with respect for content. Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText, has commented on wiki-style collaborative journalism:
"Most user-generated content isn't content, but conversation. Cultivating community is a decided practice. It boils down to the social contract you make with your readers-turned-writers. If they trust that their effort and words will be appropriated appropriately, while providing social incentives for participation, it can very well work."
The Panama Papers project may be the largest example of a journalistic consortium to date. It began sometime in 2015 (date?) when the south German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung was contacted by an anonymous source and offered the trove of 11.5 million electronic documents from Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm detailing a web of secret offshore deals and loans worth billions of dollars, and details of tax avoidance designs in numerous countries. The newspaper's editors decided they could not handle the massive volume of information alone and initiated a collaborative journalistic consortium including more than 140 journalists and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.
Differentiation from Other Styles of Journalism
- Collaborative journalism should not be confused with citizen journalism, which is practiced only by amateur reporters who develop stories by actively reporting, collecting, analyzing and disseminating news and information, often through blogs on the internet.
- It is not community journalism or civic journalism, which are practiced only by professionals:
- In community journalism, professional reporters focus their coverage on smaller communities, such as neighborhoods, suburbs, or small towns (rather than national or international coverage.)
- Civic journalism is the philosophy and practice of professional journalists and newspapers acting as participants within a community, rather than detached spectators.
- Collaborative journalism is similar, but not identical, to interactive journalism, in which consumers contribute to a professional news story through commenting and conversing with the reporter.
- Wiki journalism is a type of collaborative journalism.
"Link Journalism," a phrase coined by Scott Karp in 2008, is "a form of collaborative journalism in which a news story's writer provides external links within the story to reporting or other sources on the web." These links are meant to complement, enhance, or add context to the original reporting. Jeff Jarvis, from the Graduate School of Journalism's new media program at the City University of New York, has said that link journalism creates a "new architecture of news."
Collaborative journalism has been implemented in several different ways. Wikinews, the "free-content online news source," lets any user edit or create a news story, similar in style to Wikipedia. Several mainstream news sites have adopted a collaborative journalism approach toward news, through use of news aggregation. The Washington Post has developed a political site which links to related content from other news sites. NBC links to local newspapers, radio broadcasts, online videos, and blogs on its local television stations' sites. The sites do not separate articles written by NBC staff and links to outside sources. The New York Times has introduced a Times Extra website feature which acts posts links to outside news sites. Commenting on the launch of Times Extra, Marc Frons, CTO for Digital Operations at the New York Times, said:
“In the past, I think many news organizations were afraid to link to other Web sites out of fear that they might be sending people to an unreliable source or that their readers would never return. But those fears were largely misplaced and we’ve seen a much more open policy when it comes to pointing readers at useful content elsewhere on the Web."
Other sites exhibit collaborative journalism through aggregation. On the site NewsVine, for example, wire stories from the Associated Press complement user-generated stories and blog posts. Reddit and other news aggregation sites may also act as collaborative journalism sites, depending on where content originates.
Collaborative journalism has received some criticism:
- Some news stories require secrecy as they develop. Often sources cannot know that they are being investigated or reported on. When a single reporter investigates a person or organization, this secrecy is more likely to be kept. When news stories are developed collaboratively by multiple journalists, however, secrecy is more likely to be lost and the story jeopardized.
- Quality of collaborative projects may be difficult to assess. Fact-checking may be difficult, as facts come from many different sources. Quality of writing and reporting may also differ among contributors.
- Whatis.com "What is collaborative citizen journalism?" 2006, TechTarget
- Instablogs "Instablogs Tour" 2007, Instablogs.
- Stelter, Brian. "Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites" 12 October 2008, New York Times
- Glaser, Mark. "Collaborative Conundrum: Do Wikis Have a Place in the Newsroom?" 2004, USC Annenberg: Online Journalism Review
- Karp, Brian. "How Link Journalism Could Have Transformed the New York Times Reporting on McCain Ethics" 2008, Publish 2.0 Blog
- Publish2 "What is link journalism?" 2009, Publish2.
- Frons, Marc. "Talk to the Times: Chief Technology Officer, Digital Operations" 2008, New York Times
- "Collaboration is Queen" 2009, DigiDave.org
- Haber, Marlan Wynne "Strategies of Collaborative Writing and Intellectual Enrichment." 1994