The blend of professional journalism, expert opinion and user-generated content… will allow an ecology of interaction around the federal election to emerge, and mutually beneficial relationships between sites [to be established]. — YouDecide2007 Project Brief
YouDecide2007 is a citizen journalism project initiated to cover the 2007 Australian Federal Election in an alternative, bottom-up and ‘hyperlocal’ fashion. Funded as an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project, YouDecide2007 is a partnership between SBS, On Line Opinion, the Brisbane Institute and Creative Industries at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). In the lead up to the Australian Federal Election on 24 November 2007, the site sought submissions from interested citizens on issues of relevance to their electorates, from Broome to Bennelong, across a range of formats – whether audio, video, or textual. Citizens submitted news items and opinion pieces, which were profiled on the main page as premium content or discussed in a ‘sandpit’ section according to their merit, and engaged in robust discussions on the ‘raw’ inside pages. Editorial control in differentiating content provided certainly for project partners, and allowed a gradation of experience on the site for its readership.
YouDecide2007 demonstrates how citizen journalism can complement political coverage of mainstream media (MSM) outlets, creating synergies between professional ‘expert’ content, as provided by the project partners, and user-generated content created on the site. The YouDecide2007 project is distinctly ‘hyperlocal,’ emphasising ‘on-the-ground’ news reporting from individual electorates, and therefore illustrating the interesting interplay between local and national issues in key seats. It builds on experience from On Line Opinion in the reporting of public affairs and community management, and research expertise from QUT in the qualitative and quantitative analysis of social media and public sphere initiatives.
User-generated content submitted to the YouDecide2007 site is dual licensed. Articles, images, and videos are made available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives 2.5 Australia licence. In addition, users grant the project partners – QUT, SBS and On Line Opinion – a non-exclusive, perpetual, world-wide licence to reuse the content for any purposes associated with the project, on the condition that appropriate attribution to the author remains. These terms are specified here. The availability of premium content for reuse by project partners was a key aspect of the ARC linkage grant.
The YouDecide 2007 project was commenced to provide a democratic forum for alternative reporting on Australian public affairs. By analysing the dynamics of the site, the project sought to suggest models of best practice for citizen journalists and managers of citizen journalism sites. A primary aim of the project was to understand changes in the public sphere brought about by user-generated content, and which interventions into the mainstream political process are possible. It also engages with the current interest in the role of the Internet and user-generated content in the mainstream political process.
Barry Saunders, a QUT Creative Industries researcher with the YouDecide2007 project, commented on the site’s use of Creative Commons in an interview conducted in March with Rachel Cobcroft from Creative Commons Australia:
- ‘YouDecide2007 utilised CC licensing to allow portability of content. We thought it important that our contributors be allowed to reuse their own content as they saw fit, and that the stories spread as widely as possible. YouDecide2007 was more about getting perspectives heard than making money, and the CC licence fit our needs more than a traditional copyright licence.’
In addition, the YouDecide2007 team also sought out partnerships with regional bloggers who wanted to share their content on the site. Although permissions from the bloggers were obtained, Creative Commons licensing allowed this content to be republished with appropriate attribution.
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