JUST got back from a talk held by the University of Central Lancashire in Preston that looked at the impact of citizen journalism on the media.
Dan Gillmor spoke via a video-link from Doha and the panel also featured the head of BBC News Interactive Peter Clifton.
It was interesting to hear from Peter Clifton that the BBC has set-up a team of six journalists to check the authenticity of photographs and news items submitted by the general public.
The London bombings and the oil storage plant explosion at Buncefield highlighted the importance to mainstream media of items sent in via email and mobile phones.
The talk was aimed at journalists at the university who are going to be faced with more and more news items that are submitted by the public and so the panel stressed the importance of having systems in place to ensure things were correctly dealt with.
I suppose nothing has changed in this instance, any good journalist will always check up on a news tip, but the difference today is the speed.
All the news companies ran citizen journalism footage of the Buncefield explosion until their own cameras and photographers arrived and Peter Clifton said on reflection they should not have been so gung-ho with the film of the two men sat in a field close to an unexploded storage tanker.
He said that later in the day the ‘bravado’ element of the piece was toned down.
An element that was missing from the talk was the impact that blogging software and the tools of self-publishing will have on the news landscape.
At the moment the news flow is very much one way, with citizen journalists providing photographs or articles, and receiving very little in return.
Some companies are trying to secure cash payments for individuals, acting as a go-between in effect, but what is missing is the resources that the media, as well as educational establishments and local councils, enjoy are not being opened up to the citizens.
Where are the initiatives with local community groups and charitable organisations to provide them with the tools to keep people in touch with what’s going on close to them?
Shouldn’t union groups be looking to support members with courses in blogging and providing them with skills so they can offer to help businesses set a blog up and keep it up-to-date with interesting articles?
One of the most interesting examples of a newspaper giving back to those who have helped them write stories in the past was recently featured in the International Herald Tribune.
It is still early days in the world of citizen journalism and the flow is very much one way, but soon the flow of discussion and ideas will have no boundaries and any forward thinking news organisation should already be planning for that day.
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