Highway citizen reporters social network model

http://www.highway.com.ua, Ukraine
This article was prepared for OhMyNews
research into global journalism

Please tell us about your site. How did the site get started, and what are its goals?
HighWay citizen reporters social network started August, 5 in 2005. Web-site was created by two students of Institute of International Relations Dmytro Dubilet and Serhiy Danylenko. The basic idea was let the readers influence journalists as much as possible. On HighWay readers help editors decide where to place an article on the site and how much money pay to authors.

HighWay was created as something completely different to the existing Internet media in Ukraine. Interested in journalism Dmytro and Serhiy set a goal to develop an instrument every professional reporter would dream to use. From the very beginning Highway was a commercial project, since founders were sure they can make it profitable.

So the main traits of Highway can be described as follows:

  • interesting independent Internet media;
  • useful instrument for professional journalists;
  • profitable business-model.

    What sets your site apart from traditional media outlets such as The New York Times? Highway doesn't have permanent staff of journalists. There are over 4000 registered journalists, which publish up to 80 articles a day. Editors do not tell journalists what to write about. Journalists make their own decisions on subject, style and plot of their articles. Highway editors work as community managers. They participate in discussions, comment the stories and shape the "web-soul" of the site, its unique online spirit and brand essence.

    Has your site been called the first citizen journalism site in your country or region? Yes. Highway is the first citizen journalism site in Ukraine. It is also the biggest CJ site in terms of visitors per day and the number of registered reporters. There are some traditional web-sites with motto "Send us a story via mail and we'll see if we can publish it", but such a model can't be called citizen journalism.

    How has citizen journalism matured and gained mainstream acceptance since your site launched? Citizen journalism is not a mainstream hobby in Ukraine. In our country people use Internet mainly to search for information and read news. Communication and online socializing is not so popular yet. Highway is the only mass-media in Ukraine, where a person can publish an article without having to negotiate with editors. That's why the site became popular among people, who make their first steps in journalism as well as among professionals, who try to find new media outlets for their stories. So Highway is both a web-site and a place for communication of social network members. Highway plans to keep promoting the concept of citizen journalism in Ukraine using online and offline instruments.

    Please explain how the editorial process at your site works. How can citizen journalists post articles on the site? Does your editorial staff work with citizen reporters in the field who pitch story ideas and then get paid if they are accepted? Any registered journalist can publish an article on Highway. Readers have 24 hours to evaluate newly published articles in special part of the site called "Live". Then editors see which articles have the highest rank and place them on the main page of the site, while other articles are saved in the archive. Authors of articles with the highest rank get $ 2-10.

    Editorial staff doesn't pitch story ideas to reporters, though Highway plans to introduce this option in future.

    How does your newsroom ensure and maintain a high degree of fairness, balance and accuracy from your citizen reporters? There are no anonymous reporters on Highway. Every registered journalist has a profile, where he provides personal information. There is no sense lying or providing inaccurate information in publications, because it hurts reputation. If journalist provides imbalanced information, readers will pay attention to that fact and help improve the article.

    What do you consider some of the main principles, or tenets, that form the basis of citizen journalism? Citizen journalists have to be sincere in their words and publish information they consider useful to the society. CJs should never publish articles because they were paid to do so. CJs should never be engaged in plagiarism or stealing articles. CJs should work in line with the basic principles of journalist's code of conduct and respect the regulations of the site, where they post their stories.

    Do you consider independence an important hallmark of citizen journalism? If so, what does independence entail? CJs publish information, because they want to change the world, not because they are dependent on salary or obliged to complete editor's task. CJ's independence results in freedom of thought. It entails the right to freely choose story concept, style, plot and main ideas without editor's pressure.

    How does your site maintain its editorial integrity instead of being a vehicle for its founder's point of view? Highway maintains its editorial integrity thanks to the article ranking algorithm. When readers vote for stories and everyone can see voting statistics, it's impossible to manipulate figures.

    Does transparency play a role in citizen journalism? How does your site use transparency? Transparency is one of the cornerstones of citizen journalism and of Highway in particular. On Highway one can visit journalist's profile and see all the articles he published and the amount of money he earned. It's possible to see the voting statistics as well.

    When it comes to accuracy, what is the track record of citizen reporters of your site? There are 4050 registered journalists on Highway, of which several hundreds can be called active contributors.

    Does your site screen for inaccuracies and fact check the work of its citizen reporters? Unfortunately Highway doesn't have a permanent editor staff to do this job at the moment. Readers themselves find mistakes or inaccuracies and draw author's attention to such flaws in comments. Then editors make changes in the article.

    Are the contributors of your site allowed to include subjectivity and point of view in their work, or is "objectivity" the desired focus? Highway journalists define their own style of writing. Readers appreciate both objective analytics and personal thoughts of the author. Both are allowed on Highway.

    What is the business model of your site? Main profit of Highway comes from advertisement. Highway is also planning on developing recruiting services in the near future in order to help journalists and employers find each other.

    For more information, please contact: highwayhighway.com.ua

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