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LJWorld.com weblogs Mackenzie Steffen

iReport, therefore iAm

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CNN has enlisted the help of citizen journalists by creating the iReport program. While firsthand accounts can be a great value to the masses, reports based on pure opinion should not be passed off as citizen journalism. There is a time and place for angry tirades, blogs for example, but the line gets blurry when you read “news” on iReport.

CNN beats readers over the head with their disclaimer, which includes this “iReport is the way people like you report the news. The stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only ones marked 'CNN iReport' have been vetted by CNN.” Their terms of use are extensive. They have obviously followed the CYA mantra. Unless the post is marked vetted, it may not be worth your time.

Last week, Americans scoured news outlets to better understand the atrocity that occurred at Ft. Hood near Killeen, Tx. Because I don’t have access to television news in my home, I relied solely on the Internet to get as much information as I could.

One of my first stops was cnn.com. After reading their traditional news article, I was drawn to the iReport section. There were several posts from people claiming to be on or near the base. Their information was interesting to say the least.

The first iReport post I read claimed that a terrorist attack had occurred. It referenced the September 11th attacks and alleged that members of al-Qaeda had infiltrated the US military to continue their quest for American bloodshed. Obviously I took this for what it was, an angry, ranting conjecture with little to no news value. At this time I can no longer find this post but have found similar ones.

The second iReport post I read was the firsthand account of a woman living on base which has since been vetted and appropriately marked as such. This contribution actually offered something of value, something different than what traditional media was reporting. It allowed me place myself on base, hear what she heard and feel the tension, confusion and fear.

Citizen journalists can be a major asset to a news organization and the public. But what happens when they get the story wrong? We all know that even the most seasoned journalists make mistakes from time to time, especially with breaking news.

But the difference truly is in the details. Professional journalists have the training, skills and experience to make every possible effort to get the story right and to get all angles. The average citizen journalist does not. While their perspective of an incident might be enthralling, it most likely is not the whole story.

What do you think of iReports?

Comments

avossen 5 years, 1 month ago

Rather than iReports, these might be called iWitness. I certainly agree with you that not just anyone can be given the title of journalist, even if citizen is tacked on in front like some kind of disclaimer.

Lauren Keith 5 years, 1 month ago

I applaud CNN for trying this approach, but I agree that there should have been more steps or more checkpoints along the way.

Some newspapers have done this "community" approach and been very successful, given that the topics were not as serious. RedEye, a daily newspaper in Chicago, regularly prints Twitter-sized movie reviews. When Lollapalooza was in Chicago last summer, the newspaper "crowd-sourced" mini reviews of all of the shows.

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