Archives for posts with tag: Meme

Investigative journalism is no longer the domain of newspapers.

Newspaper sales are declining drastically and so (inevitably) are the staff. The Mirror group have recently announced one of the largest redundancy programmes of any news group, axing 200 jobs. As the number of reporters and journalists decrease there are greater time pressures on those that remain to fill up a paper with content. The result is usually an abundance of PR stories and a increasing dependence on news-wire stories that are often unchecked and sent straight to press.

The blame for these job cuts is normally focused on a loss of newspaper revenue caused by the free content available on the internet. But if the internet is the culprit for a decline in traditional investigative journalism, it is also breeding a new form of investigation.

For those that don’t know, crowdsourcing is the process of harnessing the power of the masses to accomplish tasks. By calling out to an interested crowd you can get tasks accomplished, ideas generated and develop the kind of insights never before possible. When this technique is applied to investigative journalism you end up with a massive team of investigators. The most popular example is the use of crowdsourcing to investigate MP’s expenses – the Guardian has so far recruited 26,763 people to review MP’s expense documents.

Developments in collaborative online investigations are being pioneered by Paul Bradshaw on his website Help Me Investigate. Designed to connect, mobilise and uncover – it allows users to investigate “things”. These things can be anything from how much donation websites take from charities to issues surrounding the digital economy bill.

Anyone can suggest an investigation – an activist, journalist or a member of the public. The investigation then becomes a series of tasks. For example, one investigation asks “How orchestrated or organised was the #janmoir campaign?” and the tasks are:

  • To provide background information
  • Analyse tweets
  • Suggest ways to test “organisation” and “orchestration”
  • Compare it to other “outrages”
  • Follow the source that led to the outrage
  • Invite experts to take part

Other investigations can involve writing freedom of information requests, contacting local councils and identifying possible contributors.

Although this project has proved its worth on a local level – it is clear the vision of this site is for national (and maybe international) investigations. It currently only has a few members and is still in development – but I think it will become the next big thing in journalism.

A key feature which will aid its growth is the addition of a user profile. When you take part you give yourself tags to indicate your interests and skills, meaning you are easy to find when needed. Also, whenever you contribute to or start an investigation your profile is updated to reflect your increased participation. It is almost like collecting points or badges. This game like strategy will increase user engagement and provide a level of recognition that could be lost with other forms of crowdsourced collaborative investigation.

I imagine the model of the website will get its first good test now that the government have begun the Coins data release. With such an abundance of government data ripe for investigation, Help Me Investigate can begin setting challenges to root out details from what has now been exposed.

I’m confident that this website will grow and will alter as it develops. I imagine that similar sites will start to appear – but they won’t be aet themselves up as competition because, after all, this is collaboration at its strongest.

I have been eating meat for the past 6 months. After 5 Christmases of eating veg-sausages I crumbled in front of Christmas turkey. Now I eat meat on a pretty much daily basis.

So why have I gone from one extreme to the other? The reason could be because I was caught up with everybody else in thinking about vegetarianism as a binary – vegetarian/meat eater. I know a few vegetarians and loads of meat eaters – but no-one who is in between.  In fact the average Brit eats the equivalent of a lamb chop and a chicken breast every day.

In an inspirational TED talk, Graham Hill asks, quite simply, that we become weekend meat eaters. It makes complete sense – we are idiots for eating meat every day. Look at the facts:

  • Eating less meat would be better for the environment
  • 100 million more people could be fed if Americans cut down their meat intake by 10%.
  • The humans that work in American abbatoirs work in some of the worst conditions in the manufacturing industry. Poor uneducated workers are exploited and child labour is often reported.
  • People love their pets but we treat bred animals horrifically – submitting them to tortuous conditions. Look here if you have the stomach for it.

I’m sure our vast meat consumption is profitable to the businesses involved – and that is probably why we are conditioned not to think about what we eat too much. Yet hardly anyone would actually kill an animal – and if they did they would see things from a completely different perspective.

Personally – I’ve always had a niggling feeling that the way a society treats its animals feeds up to the way a society treats their citizens. I also found that becoming a vegetarian makes you think about things differently – you sort of become a bit more concious of the world around you. The other major benefit of becoming a vegetarian was that, since I couldn’t really on meaty ready meals, I learnt to cook with vegetables, herbs and spices. And I can testify that there are a LOT of tasty vegetarian meals that are far better than the meat dishes I’ve recently been devouring.

It really isn’t that hard to become vegetarian – trust me! I don’t get why people seem so quick to assume they would fail. So why not start treating meat as a treat -

It’ll be great if this meme spreads through the net and we see a noticeable decrease in meat consumption. After all, it’s not just Paul McCartney that praises a meat free diet.  Plato, Aristotle, Socrates up to Darwin and Einstein – philosophers across time  have approved the idea of vegetarianism (let’s forget that Hitler was a vegetarian). As Einstein said – “If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind”

So yeah – I’m gonna eat meat on weekends from now on and aim to stop altogether. And this blog post is my little addition to (hopefully) help make the meme spread.

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