Pro-Am Journalism Takes off With Launch of Assignment Zero

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Wired News (http://www.wired.com) and NewAssignment.net today announce the launch of Assignment Zero (http://www.assignmentzero.com), an attempt to bring together professional writers and editors with citizen journalists to collaborate on reporting and writing about the rise of crowdsourcing on the Web.

As a journalist myself, I’m exhilarated by the implications of what we’re building here on Assignment Zero. The point here isn’t to develop a wholesale replacement for how journalism is made. It’s to improve it in radical new ways that were never before possible.

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Wired News (http://www.wired.com) and NewAssignment.net today announce the launch of Assignment Zero (http://www.assignmentzero.com), an attempt to bring together professional writers and editors with citizen journalists to collaborate on reporting and writing about the rise of crowdsourcing on the Web. Inspired by the open source movement, the goal of Assignment Zero is to develop a working model of an open newsroom.

“An outstanding fact of the Net era is that costs for people to find each other, share information, and work together are falling rapidly. This should have consequences for reporting big stories,” said Jay Rosen, Executive Editor of the project. “Assignment Zero is pro am journalism because it's reported by the many and edited by a few, who have to be constantly open to new contributions." Rosen founded NewAssignment.Net in July, 2006 to spark innovation in open source reporting. "We think hybrid forms are the way to go," he said. "Editorial discipline within a climate of radical openness."

The site features a Newsroom section, where contributors can find an overview and a story update. The Newsroom is comprised of: the Assignment Desk, where contributors can learn about what has been covered and pick up an assignment; the Exchange, where people can talk through the story and offer new ideas; and "The Scoop," where the editor, Lauren Sandler, will comment on the day’s developments.

“For Wired News this is an experiment in changing the face of journalism, specifically through bringing the power of citizens into the mix and encouraging a new era of transparency in story development,” said Evan Hansen, Editor in Chief, Wired News. “Essentially, we're building a software platform for journalism 2.0 -- open source and extensible – which we believe will bring new dimensions of creativity to news gathering.”

Also partnering with NewAssignment.Net is Newsvine, a read/write platform for citizen journalists founded by veterans of Disney, ESPN, and other media organizations. (The founders mission: "to build a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and interact with the news.") New Assignment will at the appropriate moment send to Newsvine a "package" of assignments and the Newsvine community will figure out how to do those pieces.

Newsvine COO Calvin Tang said, "What interests us about this partnership is the opportunity for Newsvine members to work on this project as a team with a specific reporting assignment, within a larger framework of research and collaboration. Our existing social publishing platform is perfectly suited for such a task, and has already frequently lent itself to the development of members from casual contributor to citizen journalist. We welcome the opportunity for our writers to contribute to the advancement of citizen media, and look forward to working together with NewAssignment.Net."

Assignment Zero is the first of several planned experiments in collaborative reporting. Participation is voluntary and contributors are welcomed from across the Web. The first story is about the spread of “crowdsourcing.” It will explore how the Web makes it possible for the crowd to be the source of good ideas. WIRED Magazine contributing editor Jeff Howe, who coined the term crowdsourcing, will work with the Assignment Zero desk and report about the experience for Wired News and on his own blog, http://www.crowdsourcing.com.

Unique to Assignment Zero is a working partnership between the editor and the Director of Participation, Amanda Michel. Michel bring the principles of online organizing into a place they've never been used before: the newsroom. "Moving a newsroom online also requires editors to learn online organizing skills, like managing volunteers and using different tools."

“Assignment Zero is the first national journalism project that truly takes place in the open, instead of behind newsroom walls,” said Sandler. “As a journalist myself, I’m exhilarated by the implications of what we’re building here on Assignment Zero. The point here isn’t to develop a wholesale replacement for how journalism is made. It’s to improve it in radical new ways that were never before possible.”

Content produced through Assignment Zero will be licensed through the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Further information can be found at Assignment Zero (http://www.assignmentzero.com).

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