Citizen Journalists Die 3:1 In Syria News Coverage - Citizen Journalists Need to be Respected (and Covered by National Shield Law)

Last February, I wrote about a man who died in Syria named Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed, a citizen journalist who published a blog with both videos and posts as he tried to get the message out to the rest of the world about what was happening in his hometown.

He died at the age of 27 years old, and I have no idea what has happened to his wife and baby daughter.

This week, I discovered that the Pew Research Center has been tracking what has been happening to these ordinary folk, like Mr. Al-Sayed, who are reporting without benefit of journalistic education or experience.  According to Pew, lots of these people are not only risking their lives in getting the truth out, as they understand it to be, but they are dying in the process.

Consider the following infographic provided by Pew:

That's right:  73% of the media-related deaths in Syria are those of citizen journalists.  In fact, the Pew research reveals that circumstances being what they are in Syria, traditional journalists have come to rely on the citizen journalist more and more for information and verification of what is happening there.

Read the complete Pew Research story here, entitled "Another casualty of war in Syria—citizen journalists."

Are Citizen Journalists Doing the Work of a Journalist?  

Which brings me to the recent debate over a national shield law and one proposition that shield law protections should be given to "journalists" as that job title is defined by statute, and part of that definition should be that a "journalist" is someone who draws a salary to do their journalism job.

Techdirt has some nice coverage and commentary of that debate here.  So does Professor Larry in a Huffington Post piece.

Considering the Pew research, I'm thinking that bloodshed or the risking of one's person or life or liberty to report the truth to others should carry some weight regarding being legally protected as a journalist, too.

Sure, the Syrian example comes from another country, and I'm not rabbit trailing down that political road.  My point is that citizen journalists perform a job that is a part of journalism today, no matter where they work.

May God forbid that we ever see U.S. citizen journalists exposed to the dangers that this Pew research reflects; however, I am secure in my belief that here in the United States we have citizen journalists just as dedicated as those working in the Middle East today.

Citizen journalists are important to our society, to insure that the truth is revealed.  They deserve respect and recognition - including protection by a federal shield law.

Bloggers aren't just ranting about celebrities or kids or sharing recipes and DIY projects anymore - does Congress realize this?


Google In-Depth Articles in Search Results - New Segregation of Results in Google Search

Perhaps you've noticed “news results” appearing near the top of your search results in Google, with two or three stories from mainstream media sources appearing near the top of the results with an invitation to surf over into more search results under Google News Search.

Soon, you’ll be seeing another subset of results on your Google Search Results page: beginning this month, Google began clumping together “in-depth articles” as a subset of finds, similar to News Results, in your Results.

Personally, I've only seen "in-depth articles" pop up once or twice in my searches; each time, they appeared at the bottom of the first page of search results, included three options, and were all provided by mainstream media publications.

What is this content? 

In the words of Google (here and here):
[P]eople continue to invest in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication. This is exactly what you'll find in the new feature. … 
Often when you're searching on Google for a person or organization name, or other broad topic, you'll find a block of search results labeled "In-depth articles." These results provide high-quality content to help you learn about or explore a subject.… 

Google In-Depth Articles in Search Results

Expect to find articles published by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other established publications, although Google does suggest that these in-depth articles will include “…great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs.” 

Here’s an example of search results including the new feature as provided by Google:

google in-depth article results feature image examples

Google Tips on How to Get Your Content Into In-Depth Articles Section of Search Results 

Google will be making its own top-secret decisions on what content will appear in this subset of Search Results. There’s no magic wand that is going to get your content into that new first page position.

However, Google Webmasters do provide instructions on coding to include in your content that will help you meet this goal. From Google (read all the details here):

1.  Include coding from Schema.org in your content (metadata) 

Google suggests that you use the article markup provided at Schema.org including specifically the following:

  • headline 
  • Alternative Headline 
  • image (note: the image must be crawlable and indexable) 
  • description 
  • datePublished 
  • articleBody 
  • Authorship markup 
  • Pagination and canonicalization 

2.  Have a Logo (check out the logos appearing in the image for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times)

Google suggests logo placement via:

  • Google+ Page linked to your website, where the default image for the Google+ Page is your logo or icon that will be used for the In Depth Article result. 
  • Use organization markup (see above metadata).
For those thinking that this is one more reason to get cracking on Google+, you're right.  It's important.