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Monday, October 3, 2011

AllVoices: Citizen Journalism Gone Bad

Note: I spent five months as a writer for  Dedicating all my time to writing, I seldom checked what anyone else might be posting. Being lazy, I never checked the site out when I decided to join, but instead relied on information supplied by someone else. When I became aware of the plagiarism and pornography extant on AllVoices, I had to seriously reconsider my position. When I found an article that included a graphic description of sexual activities involving a child, I could neither read the entire article nor continue writing for AllVoices. Although AllVoices management will sometimes delete plagiarized or pornographic articles when brought to its attention, it's like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. I was not affected by payment issues, particularly because there is a $100 minimum for payouts, and I had not quite reached that amount. The amount I earned, and could continue to earn, is insignificant to the damage being connected to the site would do to my reputation and psyche. Sadly, there are technical advantages writing for the platform which I enjoyed and regret that I couldn't continue.

There is something noble about citizen journalism, the concept of members of the public "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information." It sounds so, I dunno, democratic. The type of citizen journalism practiced on the internet allows—anyone who has one—the opportunity to share an opinion as well as news.

Since simple explanations are often the most efficient, here is citizen journalism as defined by – Journalism, “Put very simply, citizen journalism is when private individuals do essentially what professional reporters do - report information… it's basically all about communicating information of some kind.”

Technorati offers a platform for citizen journalists who must submit a sample of their work before being accepted as a writer, and that employs a cadre of editors to check the work before it’s published. Some other sites allow self-publishing with oversight, assign articles, or allow writers a narrow field about which to write. Some limit the types of content or news they accept, others will accept anything (or just about anything). Some of them pay, some of them don’t.

One of the things that some people don’t appear to understand about citizen journalism is that it is written by citizen journalists. As such, they are expected to have a decent command of spelling, grammar, and writing skills in the language of their audiences. It would make as much sense for a site to become identified with atrocious writing as it would for a news-oriented site to become identified with pornography.

Some people “sleep around,” I “write around.” I like to have a home base for which I do the majority of my writing and other sites for articles that don’t quite fit the environment of my home base, either because they are highly opinionated, controversial essays, personal or autobiographical, or they are on a subject that isn’t included in the home site’s coverage. In so doing, I’ve sampled a half-dozen or so sites, some that were an okay match, and I occasionally contribute to three or four of them.

A friend recommended, a citizen journalism news site that welcomes all writers, allows self-publishing, and does not employ editors. I like the immediacy of self-publishing—seeing what I’ve written available to my thousands of fans (ahem…) as soon as I’m satisfied with the article. I believe I can communicate well enough, I have a decent grasp of spelling and grammar, and I have honed my writing skills in various positions over the course of decades. I have no delusions of being a great writer, but I think I’m okay.

AllVoices allows anyone from anywhere to write, and the site has thousands upon thousands of writers worldwide. It concentrates on stories that are of interest to North America (not necessarily about North America, but that’s apparently the area it and its advertisers/sponsors want to reach. There are many languages spoken in North America—English, French, and Spanish being among the most common. AllVoices provides them with important news stories, such as…

In an article headlined “Anwar Al-Awlaki Killed in Yemen Airstrike,” the author (identified as “latestnewsupdate”) writes, “…tribal sources told AFP that Awlaki was killed leadership an temperament strike which enjoin two vehicles guidance Marib province, an al Qaeda stronghold in eastern Yemen leading Friday. The 40-year-old, who was born in extra Mexico, was linked to the 2009 Christmas eternity “underwear bomber” design — a narrowly foiled stab to disaster up a passenger jet approaching Detroit.He was also linked to the failed Times make good drab attempt guidance May last year and the November 2009 bulwark Hood shooting, impact which 13 people were killed by a gunman at the U.S. legion base.Al-Awlaki, born grease New Mexico, has been linked to al Qaeda…” Need I add [sic]?

An article titled “Blue Water Wallpapers” would seem to herald a lifestyle article about a style or brand of wallpaper that is available, or perhaps a line of desktop wallpapers. Written by the same author as the Anwar Al-Awlaki article, who claims to be from NYC, NY, it is comprised of the following information, “water wallpaper, water scenes wallpapers, free water wallpaper, wallpapers, computer wallpaper free, under water wallpapers, blue wallpaper, under water wallpaper, free computer wallpapers, blue water wallpaper, water wallpapers for desktop, computer wallpapers, pc wallpaper free, water drops wallpapers, water desktop wallpaper, water fall wallpapers Tags: blue wallpaper blue water wallpaper computer wallpaper freecomputer wallpapers free computer wallpapers free water wallpaper pc wallpaper freeunder water wallpaper under water wallpapers wallpapers water desktop wallpaperwater drops wallpapers water fall wallpapers water scenes wallpapers water wallpaperwater wallpapers for desktop.”

In writing about the always-newsworthy Kim Kardashian, this prolific journalist reported, “Kim Kardashian’s N-u-d-e Play-boy Photoshoot For Magazine, No one can axe her she is the bloom of nature , gorgeous female spell the world so hot and sexy Kim. Kim Kardashian doesn’t stay out of news for violently long. Soon proximate news of her leaked sex tape with ex-boyfriend Ray J, Kim Kardashian is once again in the news again for her virtually nude images shot thanks to Playboy magazine.”

The important thing to remember is that writers get paid (a nominal amount) for writing for (“Local to Global News”). However, many of the sites’ best writers are stampeding away from it because of payment issues, rampant plagiarism and pornography, and lack of oversight. (My departure was due to the pornography issue—I didn’t want to be associated with a site that allows graphic pornography, especially one including descriptions of children engaged in sexual acts.)

Lest you think that there is only one prolifically bad writer at AllVoices, here is a paragraph from an article published today by Vicky247 who is based in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan: “For decades, the current vernacular cultural helped consolidate the idea. Film and literature devoted to the supreme skill character to succeed in an environment that respected the moral effort, or at least the promise of prosperity and wealth.” The title? “The End of the American dream?” And perhaps it does describe the death of the American dream of success, as well as the dream of competent citizen journalism.

Parts excerpted from: AllVoices: Citizen Journalism Gone Bad - Technorati Business