Wednesday, August 16, 2006

CNN's approach to citizen journalism

Courtesy an email from the Medill listserv and speaking of "citizen journalism", check out CNN's new site: CNN Exchange.

From what I can tell, they are soliciting readers for pictures and stories. They lay it out to make it easy for people to contribute and even include a toolkit to guide you.

They also include a list of stories the editors are interested in, from airport security ("Did you have to rearrange your luggage?") to the Middle East ("Do you have photos of buildings destroyed by rockets?") to the hurricane season ("How safe do you feel?")

First let me say that I think it's interesting, and an affective way to connect to readers and viewers. If citizen journalism is really taking off, then it makes sense for the news organizations to go out and solicit it from people and reap the benefits with a good looking online package.

And it seems like they are getting a really strong response with dozens of first-hand stories, photos and videos, allowing us to see parts of the world or particular incidents that might not otherwise be captured.

But something about it rubs me the wrong way. I haven't entirely put my finger on what it is - perhaps that it feels like they are taking the reporters out of the mix and the analysis is decidedly lacking. Perhaps it's that many of the contributions read like guided letters to the editor or people just mouthing off on a particular topic. Not sure, jury's still out. But it is an interesting approach, I'll give them that.



At 6:07 AM, Anonymous catherine said...

hi there - i'm a current medill student who's on a fellowship at, working on the exchange. thanks for your interest in the site -if yall have any questions about it, shoot them my way!

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Hi Catherine, thanks for commenting! I am interested to hear your take on the site and the impetus behind it. Any thoughts?

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous catherine said...

well i actually came into the site just a few weeks before it was set to launch. so i can't speak as to what the original thoughts were. (and obviously anything i say here are just my opinions and not those of cnn.) but from what i know, we are genuinely interested in content from the public that can complement the traditional reporting done by cnn. it's not as if it has to be serious news that needs to be vetted - we've showcased everything from people's comments on the movie "World Trade Center" to cellphone videos of rockets in Haifa. but, just fyi, there is a very serious vetting process that goes on, particularly for the multimedia stuff that we get.

anyway, i just think it's a nice way to showcase angles, stories and ideas that we wouldn't know about otherwise - plus it's a way for people to feel like they can connect with and participate in the news. it's still early on, but i think the exchange will definitely go on to do pretty great things...unfortunately i have to head back to medill in september! but i'll be keeping an eye on it.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger CK said...

I definitely think it's a cool idea, allowing the public to have their say, become more connected to the site. Innovative and a clever way of making sure readers, in some way, feel important to the whole process.

But am I missing something? These aren't really "stories," in the journalistic sense of the word, are they? I'm seeing a lot of reader responses and photo galleries, which are good, don't get me wrong. But I'm not so sure I would characterize this as CNN allowing readers to become wholesale "I-Reporter"s. It seems more like a glorified (yet, good quality) LTE Web site.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Frosty said...

There's a problem with this. And it's incarnated in the following newspaper website, a competitor of my publication in Bluffton, SC.

Here's the link. Check it out. The front page is nothing but fluff, blogs, and other unprofessional nonsense.

Certainly citizen journalism has its place, but this website is an example of how it can get out of control.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Yea man that site's a mess. What an annoying site.

And no CK, they certainly aren't real stories, which I guess is why I was annoyed with their use of the word "reporter."

At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Johnson said...

Just a thought: why would people go to this site on a regular basis? It seems to me that it is just a forum to vent...not a forum for debate. While this site may seem like a good idea, it would get boring for me very quickly. These types of sites always end badly: jammed up with crap, or just a bunch of inflamitory comments.

What they need to do is let people comment on and debate front page news stories, and have the reporter respond to the comments and questions.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Frosty said...

Did you mean inflammatory?


At 7:30 AM, Blogger Sara said...

OK this is the last thing I will say about CNN Exchange and then I'll let it go and await a fresh post:

This morning, I saw on CNN a segment featuring a photo sent in my a viewer through iREPORTS on Exchange. They had the woman on the phone talking about her photo.

At the end, the CNN anchor thanked the woman for sending the photo in and told her she just reported for CNN. Then she said: "How does it feel to have just been a reporter for CNN?"


OK that did it. Took it too far for me. If they could just call it what it is - readers and viewers contributing, a good way for them to be interactive with their news, etc. - then fine. But calling them reporters and saying they have just "joined America's best newsteam" - now that ain't right.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Davique said...

Yeah I agree, these aren't reporters. Seems like they're trying to go with the theory behind Al Gore's creation, CurrentTV, but not actually going all the way with it. As for Current, we tried to become involved with it in DC Broadcast, submitted a few stories. But it seems most of the submitted videos on the site are pretty hackey and lack any serious news content. They said our pieces were too "polished." The whole thing seems very bizarre to me...


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