Seems that these days, everyone's got a way to record potential news going on around them - whether it's digital cameras, video recorders, or cell phones - there's plenty of options, and people are using them to report current events.
Take the recent "taser" incident at the John Kerry event in Florida. According to Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post:
"CNN aired the footage last Tuesday hours after receiving it (Clarissa Jessup also posted it on YouTube), sparking a national debate over whether the police went too far or the journalism student got what he deserved. Without those pictures, the story would have been a mere blip"
Call it a fad, call it a phenomenon, call it whatever you'd like, but citizen journalism is a reality - and it's playing an integral part in newsrooms nationwide.
On top of it, networks have a veritable army of reporters - all for free.
In his article Kurtz tells of some astounding numbers of "citizen journalist" submissions to the major networks:
- -- Fox has received nearly 40,000 videos and pictures in six months under its uReport initiative.
- -- MSNBC's FirstPerson program has drawn 28,000 submissions since its launch in late April.
- -- At CNN, the first cable network to launch such an effort 14 months ago, more than 60,000 videos and pictures have poured in from its "I-Reporters."
This is no small feat, and shows the power of everyday people reporting the news. It's so strong that each of these networks have spent time and money creating a system for their viewers to submit the news - and it makes delivery that much faster. Think about it, a person on the scene has video of an event - an accident, a disaster, etc - there's no way the network could've gotten footage...until now.
This is revolutionizing the news industry in some ways. Kurtz continues:
Some stories might not exist without cellphone cameras, such as the footage of Michael Richards's racist rant at a comedy club. And such footage can be valuable. TMZ.com, the gossip site that pays for information, obtained the Richards video.
The rise of citizen newsgathering is changing the news business in subtle ways. It's an extension of the Facebook culture, in which members post hundreds of pictures of themselves, and the YouTube ethos, where pointing and shooting can capture "macaca"-type embarrassments. And it sends a signal that anyone, not just well-dressed professionals with good hair and a resonant voice, can be a journalist.
Not only is this changing the mainstream newsrooms - but it's also opening up a wider market - one where virtually anyone with a good idea and some technical skills can develop a virtual newsroom online.
It's the goal, for example, of the Knight News Challenge, which is giving away development cash of about $5 million for “innovative new media projects that serve the needs of local communities.”
One thing's for sure, the face of the newsroom, and the news that's being reported, is changing. And, it's not the result of a new editorial style, but rather, it's due to technical innovation, citizen involvement, and consumer demand for better reporting.