Tag Archives: online journalism

How UGC can be used to empower marginalised communities online; a reaction to Savvy Chavvy and Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about an online community for gypsies and travellers called Savvy Chavvy. It got me thinking about the influence, and to a certain extent the power, of mainstream media. In some ways entertainment media these days can seem to be even more powerful than the news, which in the past, represented many people’s main source of news and information.

Today there is a whole new generation who consume news and media in an entirely different way… Infotainment. That is to say information combined with entertainment. This is a fun and interesting medium to gain news and information from, and with some 9 million viewers it’s definitely popular. The problem however, is when the entertainment factor begins to overtake the information factor.

I believe we have seen this in “documentaries” like Channel 4 ‘s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Dare I call them ‘mock-umentaries’? They are interesting and new, but surely they cannot be compared with a traditional journalistic documentary.

What I have found from research on many social networking sites is that these programmes generate a great amount of conversation and online. If you #BFGW there are references not only to the programmes themselves but to an entirely new social reference. This reference from what I have gathered seems to be on the whole quite negative.

Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Screen Shot Twitter Negative Comments

Many people are beginning to associate negative, laughable, and stereotyped behaviour with the gypsy way of life portrayed on the programme. The problem is that this programme is not representative of all traveller and gypsy communities.  By creating a programme so dedicated to entertainment over information, C4 have created an extremely entertaining show, but a show that may have pigeon-holed an entire marginalised community.

These people are not happy about this as can be seen from the outbreak at an RTS meeting yesterday..

The people in marginalised communities, now when I say marginalised I don’t just mean gypsies and travellers. We’re talking about prisoners, ex-prisoners, disabled people etc… are starting to use platforms to have their side of the story heard using user generated content.

I talked to Matt Grimes about the importance of online communities like Savvy Chavvy and the content they are producing…

Matt told me that these UGC platforms can:

  • empower marginalised communities
  • bring marginalised communities closer together regardless of physical distance
  • counter the media’s pre-established ‘agenda’
  • allow these communities to address issues covered in mainstream media
  • create a space for people to learn more about these communities from the real people who live in them

For More you can visit the links in the post or there’s more in these ones:

Matt Grimes

On Road Media- Savvy Chavvy

BBC College of Journalism Post on BFGW

BFGW STV Criticism

Guardian Article on BFGW

More on Savvy Chavvy

By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm

The future of User Generated Content? CNN, iReport and Open Story.

CNN are pioneered a new approach to UGC and News with iReport and now they are launching a new user generated experience with Open Story. Generated by Users spoke to Lila King – Participation Director of CNN.com who takes us through the last five years of iReport and crucially what CNN have planned for the future with Open Story.

Open Story – CNN’s big UGC jump forward?

Japan Open Story

iReport has existed for almost five years and become more and more intergrated into CNN’s website and coverage of news. Now with Open Story (still in Beta) it takes CNN’s footage and all the perspectives of iReporters and it places it on a map and timeline giving you a full overarching picture of a news story. This rounded approach to user generated content existing together in one realtime platform is a bold one and one that the GBU team like a lot. Check out the SXSW and Japan Open Stories that Lila King Mentions.

So what is iReport?

Back in 2006 CNN first started its iReport initiative. CNN iReport is the network’s participatory news community. CNN iReporters from all over the world come to CNN.com to share video, photo, audio and text they deem newsworthy. Additionally they form communities of shared interests and engage in impassioned discussions.

CNN's iReport Homepage


It began after a number of stories where footage taken on camera phones was more compelling than traditional news organization footage. News events such as the Asian Tsunami, London 7/7 and Hurricane Katrina really shuck up the way we receive news and how news is gathered.

Here is Lila explaining in full

and a little more on the History of iReport…

Can we Trust User Generated Content?

The biggest challenge when it come to UGC is trust so we asked Lila if we can trust iReports and how CNN vet them. She says that iReports are vetted for CNN with the same rules as any other kinds of footage used on CNN staff. iReport has the same editorial philosophy as CNN.

So is UGC the future of News?

According to Lila the power of UGC is in combination with professional journalist as it offers incredible diversity and human viewpoints, but also UGC requires a lot of filtering and curating to make it successful.

iReport in Numbers

  • Typically CNN vets between 5 and 10 percent of the iReports that are received
  • CNN’s iReport has more than 753,000 registered “iReporters” (Source: iReport Server Log Data) with an average of 2.1 million unique users each month through February 2011. (Source: ComScore).
  • In its history the community has brought in 799,959 videos and photos
  • There are an average submission of 15,391 iReports each month on iReport.com.
  • CNN has received an iReport from every country in the world.       

A User Generated alternative to My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Savvy Chavvy explained

At the moment there are some 300,000 gypsy travellers in the UK. They have been brought into the public eye by the Channel 4 hit show ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’. Many however have criticised the show for stereotyping the traveller community.

A couple of years ago before BFGW hit small screens nationwide Nathalie McDermott started Savvy Chavvy an online forum for the traveller community. Having talked to and met people in the community who had experienced many kinds of discrimination and stigmatisation, On Road Media felt it was high time they had a platform to express themselves.

Nathalie explains that on Facebook and other social networking sites the travellers are sent a lot of abuse, stereotyping, and racist commentary.

#BFGW is often a trending subject on Twitter these days…

Twitter screen show bfgw

Savvy Chavvy which actually means ‘young person’ in the traveller community is a place where young ‘gypsies’ generate their own content about their own community.

Nathalie criticised BFGW saying that “C4 says it is shining a light on a community” but actually it is only looking at a tiny part of the society. This causes a skewed interpretation of what life as a traveller is really like. According to her many feel that the show is embarrassing.

Blogs and social networks where people in communities can contribute their own information and experiences may be able to counter the single view. Platforms like this as well as Twitter and Facebook can also be excellent tools for journalists looking for the real people behind the stories, and for generating stories in themselves.

Finally Nathalie told us that it’s important that journalists get to grips with how to build networks online. This is because it’s an invaluable and extensive tool for finding and building networks of contacts and stories. Paul Bradshaw is also a great advocate of building a social community online. You can read more about ‘community strategies‘ on his website.

As a closing comment she said that as journalists we cannot put off learning the essentials of online journalism for any longer. Young journalists may be worst affected by this as well. The first thing employers do these days before taking someone on is to ‘google them’. According to Nathalie if there’s nothing online about you, chances are you’re much less likely to bag the job… so we say get online!!

Here’s the interview with Nathalie:

This is an example of a video from Savvy Chavvy:

This post also show how anyone can generate content for online without lots of expensive equipment. The interview with Nathalie was recorded on a smart phone! Users generate that content!

By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm