On Sunday, following explosions at an oil depot near Hemel Hempstead, BBC News started trailing the usual firstname.lastname@example.org (info) address for viewers to email digital photos or send images and video taken on the mobile phones. By 1pm (the first and largest explosion was at 6am) they’d received more than 5000 emails with an average of three or more images each.
On 07 July following the London tube bombings, about 1000 photos and mobile clips were sent in by the public although the BBC received over 20 times that number of emails.
That’s a LOT of emails to manually sift through. Particularly when you’ve also got to answer calls and emails from journalists working for the BBC News Website, BBC News 24, Network News, Radio Five Live and other BBC broadcast channels.
There’s no way the BBC, or any other news organisation, could sift through all those emails, text messages, images, and mobile video clips which puts media organisations in an awkward position: they know their users are submitting interesting and valuable content but simply can’t process it all in an efficient and effective way.
Not only are there difficulties finding the good content in the flood of information but some, like the Online Journalism Review’s Mark Glaser who wrote an article titled ‘Did London bombings turn citizen journalists into citizen paparazzi?‘, are starting to worry about the ethical (and safety) implications of citizen journalism. On the other side of the coin, some journalists within the media establishment (old media?) are worried that bloggers and other citizen journalists will make them redundant.
Over the next few months, I’m going to be taking an indepth look at citizen journalism here on cybersoc.com. Watch out for posts, podcasts, and perhaps some mobile phone video interviews with citizen journalists, those creating services to give citizen journalists a voice, and those within news and media organisations who are looking at ways to encourage, utilise and manage the flood of content sent in by the audience whenever a big story breaks.
In the meantime, in addition to the links in the post above, here are some interesting articles and interviews about citizen journalism. Please add your own links by posting a comment here.