What is this citizen journalism stuff we keep hearing about? Without abstracting it too much, it’s the idea that people all have cameras and blogs and cell phones with cameras and some heartfelt desire to use these to inform the public. In principle, if you wanted to be a “journalist” you now have the tools to do it and the platform to present your information.
While more than a few people would argue ethics, journalistic credibility and a host of other failings in this model, but it is a reality that many newsrooms are seeking to embrace. While today’s citizen journalists have everything from Twitter to Flip Video cameras in their arsenals, back in 2005 there was still a healthy discussion around how mainstream press can begin to use citizens to improve the overall value of their news product.
Take this article, for example, from Poynter (a school of journalism) that outlines 11 different layers of citizen journalism. This excerpt is from layer two, “The Citizen Add-on Reporter,”
A small step up the ladder is to recruit citizen add-on contributions for stories written by professional journalists. I mean more than just adding a ‘User Comments’ link. I mean that with selected stories, solicit information and experiences from members of the public, and add them to the main story to enhance it.
Here’s an example: A series of car break-ins is occurring at trailhead parking lots in your area. A reporter writes a short article about the problem, identifying some of the locations of the vandalism. As a sidebar to the conventionally written story, trail users are invited to post their experiences of having their cars broken into, including submitting photos.
This approach turns a standard 10-inch minor article into an ongoing story, with victims or witnesses to the crimes contributing information and news over a longer time period. (Until the culprit is caught and the story fades.) The information from the public serves as a warning to other trail users about which parking lots have had break-in problems. The public-submitted information could even be crafted by the news staff into an online map of crime reports, featuring victims’ self-reports and photos.
I would be interested to see how this article would change if it was written today. I think the concepts are still quite valid but the tools and platforms might be very different. That’s the way with technology and more generally with anything based on making predictions, you’re aiming at a moving target and often the best thing you can hope for is that you’re at least pointed in the right direction.
Two perspectives below,