Open-source journalism

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Open-source journalism, a close cousin to citizen journalism or participatory journalism, is a term coined in the title of a 1999 article by Andrew Leonard of[1] Although the term was not actually used in the body text of Leonard's article, the headline encapsulated a collaboration between users of the internet technology blog Slashdot and a writer for Jane's Intelligence Review. The writer, Johan J. Ingles-le Nobel, had solicited feedback on a story about cyberterrorism from Slashdot readers, and then re-wrote his story based on that feedback and compensated the Slashdot writers whose information and words he used.[2][3]

This early usage of the phrase clearly implied the paid use, by a mainstream journalist, of copyright-protected posts made in a public online forum. It thus referred to the standard journalistic techniques of news gathering and fact checking, and reflected a similar term—open source intelligence—that was in use from 1992 in military intelligence circles.

The meaning of the term has since changed and broadened, and it is now commonly used to describe forms of innovative publishing of online journalism, rather than the sourcing of news stories by a professional journalist.

The term open-source journalism is often used to describe a spectrum on online publications: from various forms of semi-participatory online community journalism (as exemplified by projects such as the copyright newspaper NorthWest Voice),[4] through to genuine open-source news publications (such as the Spanish 20 minutos, and Wikinews).

A relatively new development is the use of convergent polls, allowing editorials and opinions to be submitted and voted on. Over time, the poll converges on the most broadly accepted editorials and opinions. Examples of this are[5] and Digg. Scholars are also experimenting with the process of journalism itself, such as open-soucing the story skeletons that journalists build [6].


At first sight, it would appear to many that blogs fit within the current meaning of open-source journalism. Yet the term's use of open source clearly currently implies the meaning as given to it by the open-source software movement; where the source code of programs is published openly to allow anyone to locate and fix mistakes or add new functions. Anyone may also freely take and re-use that source code to create new works, within set license parameters.

Given certain legal traditions of copyright, blogs may not be open source in the sense that one is prohibited from taking the blogger's words or visitor comments and re-using them in another form without breaching the author's copyright or making payment. However, many blogs draw on such material through quotations (often with links to the original material), and follow guidelines more comparable to research than media production.

Creative Commons is a licensing arrangement that is useful as a legal workaround for such an inherent structural dilemma intrinsic to blogging, and its fruition is manifest in the common practices of referencing another published article, image or piece of information via a hyperlink. Insofar as blog works can explicitly inform readers and other participants of the "openness" of their text via Creative Commons, they not only publish openly, but allow anyone to locate, critique, summarize etc. their works.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew Leonard (8 October 2004). "Open-source journalism".
  2. ^ Johan J Ingles-le Nobel; Robin Miller (4 October 2004). "Jane's Intelligence Review Needs Your Help With Cyberterrorism". Slashdot.
  3. ^ Johan J Ingles-le Nobel; Robin Miller (7 October 2004). "Jane's Intelligence Review Lauds Slashdot Readers as Cyberterrorism Experts". Slashdot.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Novin, A., Secko, D. (25 November 2012). "Debate Cited: A First Exploration of a Web Application to Enhance the Production of Science Journalism Students". Journalism Interest Group, CCA/Groupe d'Intérêt en Journalisme. 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2016.

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