Rachel Sterne – GroundReport

Posted on 01. Oct, 2007 by in Citizen Network, International, Politics

Introduction and Narrative: GroundReport started as a side project for Rachel Sterne after reporting on the United Nations Security Council on events taking place in Darfur. Sterne, who worked for LimeWire at the time, was concerned and agitated by the lack of public awareness about these events. About one year ago GroundReport, a network of over 1,000 citizen journalists from around the world, went from being a side project to Sterne’s full time job.

Main Goal: To democratize the news in three ways.
1. GroundReport allows everyone to participate by posting articles, videos or livestreaming content.
2. The community decides what is on the front page through voting – there is no editorial control.
3. GroundReport shares revenue with all contributors based on traffic to their stories.

Notable Achievements: GroundReport has 1,000 different contributors from all over the world including Zimbabwe, Mali and Pakistan.

Using various tools, GroundReport has media offerings comparable to a large news outlet. GroundReport has its own television channel and will soon be launching GroundReport radio. GR Television allows listeners to become deeply involved in the programming and reporting of content for specific time slots.

A Surprising Realization: “I’m always surprised and happy about how passionate a lot of our users are and how they identify with the mission that we have,” says Sterne.

There is also the surprise of having to strictly define things. Sterne’s original motivation was to create an open forum, but she found a need to be more of an editor than originally intended “because people need to know what you are trying to create and if what they have is appropriate,” says Sterne.

Biggest Practical Lesson/Mistake: You have to define what it is you are looking for very clearly to avoid spamming from advertisements and press releases. “I had to say ‘this is our content focus – international events, and politics’ and the result after that is contributed content that is more focused.” There is a delicate balance between openenss/participation and creating enough boundaries so that people will know what the entity is, says Sterne.

Money: GroundReport’s revenue model is advertising, but it is also under exploration. Currently the site is not profitable, but GroundReport is also assessing its readers and brand image to look into new business models.

Contributors: GroundReport takes site revenue and distributes half of them to writers democratically (in proportion to the unique traffic to their stories).

Future Goals: GroundReport will is starting Darfur Live TV, broadcasting live from the ground at united nations refugee camps in Chad using a satellite dish, a laptop and a camera.

The site is also increasing functionality so users can create their own groups that will act as mini-publications – a cost-free way to have your own website for a publication with editorial functionality built in.

What do you hope to get from people attending this conference?

Getting our name out there and learning from people. A lot of us are going through the same challenges, if I can learn how somebody else handled it, that can only help me too.

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