The Brian Lehrer Show as an Example of Crowdsourcing

This week I decided to look more closely at The Brian Lehrer Show as an example of crowdsourcing.  In my efforts to discover more information on this particular case, I came across insights into how this show fits as an example of crowdsourcing and how it has transformed since the writing of our article.

Fascinating Experiment in Crowdsourcing

-This piece illustrated how the Brian Lehrer Show has adapted its crowdsourcing methods to serve new goals in the show’s programming.  They spent 30 days using audience input to tailor what topics would be discussed daily concerning the presidential race between Obama and McCain.

Not Eating Out in New York

-This article discusses another crowdsourcing project the show embarked on where suggestions were sent in on paper bag lunches that people could use to cut back financially.  Additionally, the show featured the editor from The City Cook to give tasty brown bag hints, showing a blend of general audience and expert approaches to the show’s content.

Crowdsourcing: A Field Guide from WNYC

-In this blog post WNYC, the studio that airs the Brian Lehrer Show, gives tips on how to properly utilize crowdsourcing in news.  Most importantly, they expose that this technique does not take work off the shoulders of the traditional journalists, but rather they must engage in new tasks such as fact checking the crowdsourced results.

I believe that the author of the article (whose name I will respectfully not butcher) had accurately placed The Brian Lehrer Show under the subheading of Wisdom of Crowds in General-interest Reporting by Recruiting a General Audience at the time that the case was observed.  In 2007 the two big crowdsourcing projects of the show were the SUV and grocery price maps.  These are both prime examples of general interest stories and the contributing audience was not comprised of experts.  I feel in the light of what I discovered in my outside reading, however, we could alter that subheading to include Wisdom of Crowds in Topic Interest Monitoring given the “30 issues in 30 days project” that was mentioned in my first link, and also change the title to appear more like by Recruiting a General Audience and Limited Expert Panel for projects like the brown bag lunch special mentioned in my second link that called in the editor of a cooking publication.

The Brian Lehrer Show is an excellent example of crowdsourcing both at the time that it was studied and in its current state.  When engaged in its crowdsourcing projects it is generating information for its content, even if that information is sometimes just what the content of the show should be.  Additionally, it gathers this information from a large general audience, and even in the cases where experts are used, like the cooking editor, it is to enhance the audience contributed content, not replace it.

3 Responses to “The Brian Lehrer Show as an Example of Crowdsourcing”
  1. aflaten says:

    Your post is like a mini-version of the Muthukumaraswamy article with all these interesting examples of crowdsourcing that the Brian Lehrer Show has put together. It’s cool to see that he continued to run with crowdsourcing after the first few successful attempts.

    Coming away from our reading and research, I think it’s important to note that crowdsourcing can take a lot of different shapes to suit whatever need may be present at the time. General information about a neighborhood? Ask that neighborhood directly. Want to come up with a cheap lunch menu? Put the call out, gather the recipes, than have your fancy chef editor come and refine it a bit. Need someone to pour through a ton of legal documents (because you sure don’t want to)? Get the people who those documents affect to do it for you, than report on what they find! Everyone wins! (I think.)

    It’ll be interesting to see what new forms crowdsourcing takes as use of the concept grows.

  2. I think you really show here how the Brian Lehrer show is adapting and evolving with crowdsourcing. They learn and build on each experiment with it and employ it seemingly more successfully, and they recognize the roles that both they and the citizens play and how those need to work together. That their journalists are learning new skills is vital to serious consideration of crowdsourcing, as it shows this as a meaningful process that will likely grow in diversity and effectiveness as all of these different projects, the people in each of the article’s case studies, learn from how other journalists are employing crowdsourcing; the Lehrer shows the process as a tool for growth and discovery rather than a threat to journalism or a decrease in journalistic quality. It’ll be interesting to see how more journalists adopt and adapt crowdsourcing; we’re only seeing the beginning.

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