Why Everybody is a Reporter

The face of media is changing, and you might have seen it at the
grocery store or bus stop. Armed with modern technology — such as
phones equipped to send video and access the web — citizen
journalists are drifting into the mainstream,
Allison
Romano writes for Broadcasting & Cable
.
Established news organizations are caught in the middle, unable to
ignore the angles citizens offer and uncertain how to handle eager
but untrained reporters.

For citizen journalists — private individuals who contribute to
gathering and producing news — technology is the enabler. In
addition to facilitating the rise of blogs and other ‘mini news
organizations,’ Romano notes that technology can make short work of
contributing to major media outlets. Images captured on cell phones
illuminated the aftermath of the bombings this summer in London,
and the unique coverage ushered in a flurry of cell phone
submissions.

The trend of public submission is accelerating because news
organizations have begun to encourage it, Romano says. Newsrooms
solicit content, in part, because the scoop-driven industry can’t
afford to ignore timely contributions. But citizen journalists also
produce ‘hyper-local’ content — at the neighborhood and town level
— and news organizations see public participation as a
cost-effective way to improve depth of coverage.

Locally driven participation resonates with consumers who feel
distanced from mainstream coverage. ‘There are other people besides
journalists that have a voice,’ one blogger told Romano. News
organizations are willing to experiment: The cable network Current
boasts about 25 percent ‘viewer-created content,’ while the British
Broadcasting Corporation hopes to have community reporters generate
one-fifth of the content for 60 new stations.

Having citizen journalists participate requires caution, Romano
warns. Citizen journalists lack formal training and the resources
of a traditional newsroom. Media organizations that use public
submissions are faced with enacting a new level of quality control,
both to verify authenticity and eliminate errors.

By contrast, some news organizations are proactively addressing
the influx of citizen journalists. In one example, a Nashville
television station hosted a workshop to train bloggers in video
production. In addition to improving — presumably — the quality
of submissions, the workshop gave the network a chance to screen
potential sources and foster relationships with promising
candidates.
Julie Hanus

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Why
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