Crowdsourcing in investigative journalism

In practice we can divide crowdsourcing according to the part of the journalistic process where the crowd is helping, and which tools are used to organize this help. This gives us a matrix to use for analyzing projects. You can also define projects on the basis of other categories, but here I use the journalistic process and the organizing tools.

The article is published in full lenght here on the website for The Global Investigative Journalism Nettwork.

In the article I place different crowdsourcing projects in the different cells in the matrix, and use it for the purpose of analyzing how to get success out of these projects. Still it’s also obvious we’re looking at this whole process from the angle of the journalist. How can he/she use the crowd to get better stories? In a long perspective this angle might be too narrow, because also the journalist is only one party in the process of uncovering a specific story, where you’ll see a lot of other actors, so it might be better to look at the process as a whole. But for now we will focus only on the crowdsourcing – looking at it from the journalist point of view.


You might also divide the crowdsourcing projects according to other categories. This could, for instance, be timing:

1. The crowd gather information while things are happening
2. The crowd send you information after the things have occurred

Kind of media

You might also divide crowdsourcing projects according to the kind of media:

1. Big, well-known media with a long tradition of crowdsourcing
2. Well-known media experimenting with crowdsourcing
3. Small media – not so known – with a long tradition of crowdsourcing
4. New, small media starting their first project.

Kind of story

You might also divide according to the kind of story:

1. Stories with a broad appeal to the crowd where it’s obvious that the crowd has the potential to help with a lot of cases (parking fines, policy response time, doctors response time, disasters).
2. Stories where you identify an existing community and get it to help. It can be a rather specific area, but the good thing for you is that others already have gathered the crowd.
3. Stories with no community and no potential knowledge in the crowd (tax paying by multinational companies, defense contracts).
4. Stories where you have the documentation, but need help for analysis (it could also be defense contracts, state budget, and calendar of a prime minister).

Tools to raise involvement

And you might divide according to which tools you use to raise involvement and get the crowd to help:

1. It’s using more campaign-like tools like planning stories from a rap-contest to get young people into the community. And there can be a lot of other tools here.

These four other ways to categorize crowdsourcing projects might also be useful for analysis.

Getting started with crowdsourcing

I put up these tips if you have a small media or this is the first project in crowdsourcing:

1. Make Integration between comments on Facebook and the project. This is not crowdsourcing, but it’s building a community round your project, interacting with the users, and crossing the line to crowdsourcing.
2. Try to make comments from Facebook cases in the project. But be precise. Don’t use everything.
3. Check Facebook for existing communities, when you start a new project. Look also other places. If there’s a good community or a NGO, consider how you can be part of that.
4. Document and publish your data, webtv, pictures under creative commons. A good type is “Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike”.
5. Put up a system where it’s very, very easy to contribute with whatever kind of stuff you need.
6. If it’s analyzing documents or data, make some awards and other good stuff to make it attractive to do as much as possible. Credit the contributors for their work.
7. On the other hand, make it also possible for people to contribute without becoming public. Be sure to have a system to protect sources.
8. Try to figure out some more ways to make it a good idea for people to contribute. What is in it for them.

2 Responses to Crowdsourcing in investigative journalism

  1. zerodtkjoe 20. October 2010 at 10:43 #

    Thanks for the info


  1. Tweets that mention Crowdsourcing in investigative journalism -- - 14. October 2010

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