NowPublic in De Standaard

Belgian newspaper De Standaard (read daily by 80,000 people in Flanders) picked up the news about NowPublic's series A funding and published a one-page article on NowPublic and citizen journalism.

As my photos illustrate, professional journalists and media companies need to loosen up a little or they might go numb. Amateur journalists have learned to drive; it's almost time to hand over the keys -- or at least, to let us be the co-pilot. Denial will not protect the barricades around your residual self image.

(Disclosure: I am an advisor to NowPublic.)

The one page article about NowPublic and citizen journalism as published in the August 4 edition of De Standaard. The article has good things to say about NowPublic.
Steve Paulussen (post-doctoral fellow at Ghent University) states that Belgian's most popular city blog, Gentblogt, can't compete with De Standaard's online news outlet. Steve argues that Belgium doesn't have enough amateur journalists.
Pol Deltour, secretary of the Flemish Association of Journalists claims that citizen journalism is less credible and not as trustworthy as professional journalism. He argues that NowPublic does not have the resources to verify the correctness of their correspondents' footage.


Dries Knapen (not verified):

Pol Deltour, secretary of the Flemish Association of Journalists claims that citizen journalism is less credible and not as trustworthy as professional journalism.

I think this is a typical reaction of professionals who feel a bit cornered by a crowd they can't control. The truth lies probably somewhere in between, and I think that both groups of journalists should recognize that they're only capable of covering the news from a limited number of angles. For example, citizen journalists may indeed not have the resources to bring full, objective and detailed historical and political coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, combined reports of citizen journalists from Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank may shed a light on what's really happening in the field to an extent a professional journalist will probably never achieve.

Furthermore, I wouldn't say that reports from professional journalists always have high credibility by nature either. For example, yesterday I read a small front page article in Het Laatste Nieuws about only 2% of the British population being capable of learning foreign languages. The only reference I could find was that the numbers came from a 'BBC study'. An online citizen journalist's report on such a fact would probably include a link to this study, allowing me to read and evaluate the quality and experimental setup of the study myself. Now the only thing I can do is to trust the professional journalist's judgement, who - for example - is not very likely to be specialized in statistical analyses. In online citizen journalism, true statisticians have the possibility to reply to such an article and explain or nuance the results.

August 06, 2007
Peter V (not verified):

It's rather normal for pro journalists to feel frightened as they are feeling the amateur journalists breathing down their neck.

I think the public in general gets the most out of it. People start thinking differently about the facts and figures they see, read and listen to every day. A sense of criticism is always a good thing. By being amateur journalists themselves they start knowing what to be doubtful about.

I suppose De Standaard wouldn't have published this if it wasn't silly season. This would have been quite a mistake, knowing that a lot of people among their readers are amateur journalists themselves (open news websites, their own blog etc).

August 06, 2007
brunodbo (not verified):

I was disappointed when reading this article in De Standaard this morning - even though it's very cool NowPublic was mentioned in two major Belgian newspapers in one week's time (somewhere last week, De Morgen also did a story on NP).

As Dries mentions, it seems (Belgian) newspaper publishers have yet to come to terms with current developments in the media landscape. In this month's Wired Magazine, there's an article about Gannet, a US publisher experimenting with all sorts of collaborations between professional journalists and citizen journalists. Instead of trying to fence themselves off, these people are evaluating themselves and re-thinking their role as professional media makers. Far more interesting and refreshing than the nearly hostile attitude you get from traditional media towards citizen journalism in Belgium.

I was also surprised that Steve Paulussen claims there are "not enough citizen journalists in Belgium to fill an entire news website". At, we're doing just that: a network of 100+ volunteer reporters constantly update our website with news stories, photographs of all sorts of events, blog posts, video reports, ... Of course, there's still lots of room for improvement, but saying such a thing is impossible in Belgium ignores our work and that of many other citizen journalism initiatives in the country.

August 06, 2007
Steven B (not verified):

Pol Deltour, secretary of the Flemish Association of Journalists claims that citizen journalism is less credible and not as trustworthy as professional journalism.

We -at least I- did hear the same thing being said about open source software in the early 90's of the previous millennium. It turned out that professional pride, the feeling that 'something was missing' in the commercial software and just pure fun, were some of the main drivers to start the Open Source movement.

And we('ll) see the same happening with other fields of interest that have a long standing history of being open for only a few initiated, e.g. medicine.

August 07, 2007
Itkovian (not verified):

I think that Pol Deltour should take a good look at what so called professional journalism - especially US media - yielded in the past years. I find it very hard to believe anything that comes out of the corporate media machine, as there is an incredible bias toward certain people, groups etc. Moreover, blatant lies have been published by mainstream professional media organisations. While the words scribbled down by citizen journalists might carry bias as well, the sheer volume of data will often correct this, and provide you with a fairly accurate report. Of course, citizen journalists do not have the access to high placed or important people, but I think they may, and should complement what other news outlets publish.

August 07, 2007