FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 22, 2007
Camera phones change news-gathering
Train class members to think like journalists in case they see something newsworthy. Have them study news page photo captions and short community reports, and then list at least three essential elements appearing in each item.
Newspapers have long been pioneers in interactive journalism by publishing readersâ€™ letters and editorial commentaries. Through web editions, readers now also participate with comments on forums, blogs and sometimes at the end of online articles. Invite students to join the dialogue this week by commenting on any topic through one of those avenues.
Smart news consumers analyze information they see and read. Lead an exercise in critical thinking by selecting two point-of-view comments or opinions from the newspaper -- one by a professional editorial writer, columnist or reviewer, and the other by an outside contributor to the letters page, an non-staff blog or a reader forum. Ask students to discuss the logic, factual support and overall strength of each example.
'Citizen journalism,' which refers to content from nonprofessionals that appears on blogs, YouTube, online forums and other platforms, also is finding its way into newspapers and TV news outlets. Video examples include amateur footage of fires, storms, the Iraq war, July 2005 transit bombings in London and that year's tsunami in Asia.
A vivid recent example was the cell phone video of Saddam Hussein's hanging in Iraq -- which shows that small phone cameras can have a huge impact even on world affairs. Count on seeing more news videos and photos from regular folks, thanks to new initiatives by two global information sources -- Reuters wire service and Yahoo News.
Those companies invite the millions of digital camera and phone camera owners to send newsworthy images. Yahoo last month created a section called You Witness News, where users load photos and video clips of sporting and entertainment events. Local news may be added later. Reuters this year will start distributing some of the Yahoo submissions to thousands of professional subscribers -- including newspapers and broadcasters. Shooters of commercially sold images will be paid.
Earlier moves: CNN last summer introduced an I-Reports section for user-generated text, photos and video on its web site. Some content winds up in newscasts. MTV Unfiltered began earlier on the cable music channel as an outlet for viewer videos.
Advocate says: "Even the best reporters in most cases are approaching the story from the outside in. What a participant observer can offer is the perspective on that story from the inside out." -- Mitch Gelman, executive producer at CNN.com
Critics' concerns: Pranksters, propagandists and scammers gain easy access to international audiences for distorted images masquerading as news. Editors at Reuters and Yahoo say they'll try to block fraudulent or retouched images, but that's a tough goal to achieve. 'We'll see the best of things, we'll see the worst of things, we'll see everything" comments Michael Agger, technology writer for the online magazine Slate.
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