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June 17, 2013

The Imperfections of Citizen Journalism and Crowd Sourcing


We previously mentioned the rise in citizen journalism on this blog. True, some news have been broken by citizen journalists– normal people who happen to be at the right place and time to capture leads. There are also the use of Twitter and other online platforms to communicate news with the rest of the world, but sometimes journalism is best left to the experts.

During the manhunt to find the suspects responsible for the Boston Marathon attacks, people around the world chimed in. Authorities had not given the public all the information needed to accurately find a suspect, but that did not stop people from trying. Reports in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and even an apologetic Reddit post to a man and his family falsely accused of being a suspect show how groups of people working together on the internet sometimes do not utilize the proper analytical skills of a journalist or investigator. Even if they do have the skills, sometimes vital information is withheld from the public.

From The New Yorker:

Reddit had no real chance of identifying the right suspects because it didn’t have access to the information that mattered. (Had the clip of the Tsarnaevs walking down Boylston Street been publicly available last Tuesday, I don’t think there’s any doubt Redditors would have flagged them as suspicious.) Whatever the value of the wisdom of crowds, it isn’tmagic: you can’t ask the crowd to find someone that, in a sense, it’s never seen

Thank you, Jon, for the heads up.