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ARTICLE: Humanitarians turned citizen journalists

Screen capture from the SBTF website

A new form of citizen journalism is emerging from “digital humanitarianism”, writes Wendy Norris, of University of Colorado Boulder. Norris investigated the operations of the volunteer-based Standby Task Force (SBTF) in relation to two humanitarian catastrophes.

The SBTF is an organisation which collects, curates, and disseminates information which can help relief efforts and serve those afflicted. As implied by the word “digital”, the volunteers operate remotely by curating eye-witness testimonies and other content. The author is also an SBTF volunteer, but did not take part in the investigated missions.

According to Norris’ research, SBTF functions alike a journalistic organisation. Much of its internal communications revolve around what are essentially editorial decisions: what information is most important and what information can be ethically published? In short, SBTF practices citizen journalism, even though its intent and forms differ from what is usually considered as such.

The article “Digital Humanitarians” was published by the journal Journalism Practice. It is available online (abstract free).

Picture: Screen capture from the SBTF website.

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