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Help Us Create Training Modules for Citizen Journalists

As citizen journalism moves from an interesting concept to something more and more people will practice, we need to help would-be citizen journalists understand some fundamental principles of the craft.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an organization that has been helping train journalists for decades, understands the need. We’re happy to announce that the foundation has awarded a grant to the Center for Citizen Media to create five online training modules for citizen journalists. Those modules will cover 1) thoroughness, 2) accuracy, 3) fairness, 4) transparency and 5) independence. We hope you’ll help us.

The foundation believes this kind of training will be increasingly important because a fast-growing way in which citizens influence public issues and affairs is through publishing their thoughts and observations on blogs. The number of online Americans who say they have read a blog, for exmaple, now is up to 39%, according to the Pew Internet and Public Life Project.

We’re fortunate to have as a project lead JD Lasica, a longtime journalist with special expertise in the online phenomenon. JD is co-founder of, a site that helps people create and post media of various kinds. He’s also author of Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation.

Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab at the University of Maryland and also director of New Voices, has years of experience creating online training modules. She will work with the Center to make sure that our observations work well as online training modules.

The modules will be available initially on the Knight Foundation site and here, and will also be available under a Creative Commons license.

We need your help. To that end, we’re creating discussion boards where we can have a conversation about the content and ideas behind these modules. Watch this space for more details.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Knight Foundation for its support.

14 Comments on “Help Us Create Training Modules for Citizen Journalists”

  1. #1 Paul Bradshaw
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 1:24 am

    A much-welcome move, and one I will certainly be contributing to. Coincidentally, here in the UK I’m trying to organise some training in citizen journalism for community groups and news organisations if anyone is interested in a UK perspective.

  2. #2 Sheila Richardson
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 4:19 am

    Wonderful news to hear about this training focus for the burgeoning world of “citizen journalism” (a term I am not fond of…I prefer “open source journalism”, given that even as a trained journalist most people think of me as a citizen.

    I am Canadian, and am embarking on a career change from writer, editor and publisher to becoming an independent TV producer. In Canada this area is rich with production grants and subsidies. I therefore have more than a dozen series in development.

    I have tried to encourage public broadcasters in Canada such as the CBC to provide basic skills training for people who want to tell a story. They have not yet offered any. It looks like your programs focus on principles rather than practicalities, and this sort of briefing is of course essential. But the practicalities are needed to.

    I would just love to get involved with your work! I am however maxed out on my volunteer time, as I run an international development charity on the side, and my revenues from TV are happening next year not this year. But I have a very broad range of skills, having working not only in Canada but for IBM, and as a resident journalist in Hong Kong and Bahrain. I am especially strong in working in strange environments and teaching others how to survive and learn in same.

    Thank you for getting this wonderful program in motion!


  3. #3 Lisa Williams
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 10:29 am

    — How to File a FOIA Request
    — What’s a public document and where can I find them? Should I expect resistance (for instance, in the area of police blotters)?
    — Staying Out of Trouble: Incorporating, Buying Libel Insurance, and Avoiding Legal Troubles
    — Community Building Best-Practices
    — The Art of the Interview, With Special Notes for Bashful Computer Types
    — Getting Better Photos With Basic Equipment
    — Getting Better Video With Basic Equipment

  4. #4 Lisa Williams
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 10:30 am

    Oh, and a syllabus — a list of good books and articles to read about the craft.

  5. #5 Lisa Williams
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Those modules will cover 1) thoroughness, 2) accuracy, 3) fairness, 4) transparency and 5) independence. We hope you’ll help us.

    I’m not sure that bloggers agree that they need training in these areas; some of them will probably argue that they’re better exemplars of transparency and independence than some media organizations are. Make courses that “real” journalists would want to take, and then allow nonjournalists to participate.

    Is the intent to transmit skills, or a value system?

  6. #6 Pau Llop
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    I think modules would be skills focused rather ‘ethicals values’ that professional journalists don’t carry out. However, I’m very interested… Where and when can we will find more information about this modules?

  7. #7 Dan Gillmor
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    These are excellent comments, suggestions and questions. We’ll be posting a lot more information soon.

    One key point: The intent in these initial modules is to transmit principles as opposed to specific “how-to” skill sets. However, all will inevitably include some specifics, often in the form of examples, for illustration.

    I suggested this approach to the Knight Foundation for one main reason. While many bloggers (and most traditional journalists) would endorse the ideas here, it was not clear to me that average folks — especially those who might occasionally commit an act of journalism — would be all that familiar with these principles in this particular context. Meanwhile, it also seemed that we can explore these principles in a deep way through this process and what follows it, and that there would be genuine value even for professionals who might drop by and/or participate. That’s the hope, anyway.

    There’s definitely plenty more we can do in the education/training area — including lots of pointers to the wealth of how-to material already out there (and more that are in development).

    So, consider this a start, but only a start.

  8. #8 e-contenidos ::: » Cursos para formar a periodistas ciudadanos
    on Aug 15th, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    […] Ante “el aumento de personas que practican el periodismo ciudadano, […] necesitamos ayudarlas a comprender algunas de las reglas fundamentales del arte [del periodismo]”. Con este objetivo, y con la ayuda económica de la Knight Foundation -dedicada históricamente a mejorar la formación periodística-, el Center for Citizen Media que dirige Dan Gillmor anuncia la creación de “cinco módulos de entrenamiento online para ciudadanos periodistas”. Éstos cubrirán cinco áreas: […]

  9. #9 Eric J. Lindblom PhD
    on Aug 21st, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    I most certainly agree with what Sheila Richardson said: “Wonderful news to hear about this training focus for the burgeoning world of citizen journalism (a term I am not fond of…I prefer open source journalism…” quote credit: Sheila Richardson at

  10. #10 Mercurial
    on Aug 22nd, 2006 at 7:00 pm


    Go check Center for Citizen Media course on Citizen Journalism:The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an organization that……

  11. #11 Karl Martino
    on Aug 23rd, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Let me second Lisa’s suggested training modules and add one more:

    – Getting Better Audio With Basic Equipment/Low Cost Field Recording Guide

  12. #12 Juan Carlos Luján
    on Sep 5th, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    Great news. Here in Peru we would like to begin some project like that. I´m a blogger and journalist from the most important newspaper in Peru and I think that people needs to know more about citizen journalism.
    I believe more in photography cause is more ease to citizens to take pictures instead of writing or reporting. Is more easy with bloggers, but in Peru they usually dont like to do that.
    I hope I can get involved with your work.

  13. #13 Center for Citizen Media: Blog » Blog Archive » Knight Foundation Challenge: More Details
    on Oct 1st, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    […] Gary Kebbel at the Knight Foundation (which is funding one of our projects) wants anyone who’s interested in community journalism to consider applying for a grant. The program is called the “Knight Brothers’ 21st Century News Challenge,” and here are some details from an email: The purpose of the challenge is to fund new community news projects that use the digital world to connect people in the real world. […]

  14. #14 Sanjana Hattotuwa
    on Jan 28th, 2007 at 12:14 am

    I’m looking forward to this content – having started a citizen journalism network in Sri Lanka for peacebuilding and conflict resolution ( & it’s imperative that training is provided to those who contribute to do so in a manner that supports democracy, reconciliation and co-existence, qualities at the core of professional journalism.

    I hope that with your training content, it will be easier to begin this conversations with our core contributors.

    Please keep me posted !

    Best regards,


    Sanjana Hattotuwa
    Senior Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives
    Head, ICT for Peacebuilding, InfoShare
    Mobile: +94 773 022827
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    Skype: yajitha