Enhancing The News Experience

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Looking back at some of the best posts as we head into the new year regarding tools for journalists of all kinds, I found this post about KnoxNews at NewAssignment.

Knoxville, Tennessee based KnoxNews released their own iPhone application last month allowing users to upload their own reports to a profile hosted via im.knoxnews.com. Each report can be accompanied by a photo and categorized by subject and search tags, which are also chosen by the user. Please note: this is not a simple news reader for people to check the latest headlines wherever they are. This is an application that is best served as a tool for reporters — citizens and professionals alike.

The post is from Dec. 7 and I thought it need a bit more attention in discussing new tools in a new age. I wrote last week about starting out in newsprint using wax in pasteup when we built pages. Within 15 years, things have changed and for the most part, I think it’s a change for the good.

Now, some news organizations, such as the Knoxville News Sentinel, are welcoming eye-witness accounts and encouraging citizens to, indeed, be journalists. A perfect example is the recent TVA Sludge Spill in Harriman, TN. Citizen Journalists are keeping the story alive, offering eyewitness accounts and demanding answers.

Have citizen journalists made the difference in this story? I would say that they have.

Who better to report and assist news organizations then those people experiencing the story first hand.

KnoxNews have embraced new technology to enhance their news delivery and are leading the way in many ways. Tom Chereder, the author of the original post, has other ideas as well on how efforts like these can be useful for professional, and non-professional, journalists alike.

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One Comment

  1. Dave J. (Scoop0901) said January 4, 2009 | Permalink

    Some will argue that “citizen journalists” are a good idea, but the cost factor of this particular “breed” of “journalist” must be carefully considered, as well.

    I spent many years in newspapers, having started as a reporter, then editor, up the ranks higher, and then back to being what I wanted and what brought me pleasure in my career: being a reporter. In all phases, though, I had to deal with the mountain of “press releases” issued by every kind of organization known to man, both near and far, and some so far off-base it was pathetic.

    When you look only at press releases — the ones not sent by professional firms, but rather by many local groups and organizations — things become evident: not everyone is meant to be a writer. Sometimes, because a press release sounded promising for a feature or even as a news item, it took more time trying to find out **what exactly** was going on than it was worth. Too often, too much hoopla was added, making a candle-lighting ceremony sound more like an inaugural ceremony for a governor or a simple community breakfast focused on discussing local issues sounding like it was a forum to address ways to actually begin addressing the problems.

    Even if someone submits a “story” as a “citizen journalist,” I’d be interested in seeing — over a six month to one-year period — how much time is spent by staff in cleaning up all those stories, making them ready for publication, such as fixing spelling, grammar, punctuation, correct spelling of names, etc.

    During the collapse of the former Soviet Union, I used the Internet to chat with a few people in various parts of the former USSR. These were all people I had known from before the event, so trusting what they said wasn’t an issue. By using these folks, I was able to report on things happening in the former USSR during its final hours, and even provide a local twist: one person was a local resident.

    Use of IRC, IM, email, FTP — no, using all available resources (part of being an enterprising journalist) — helps you overcome challenges that would often stump others. The key is to never allow obstacles to stop you from achieving your goal.

    How does that transform into newsrooms for the 21st century? Many of the people my age and older — even some younger ones — that I worked with over the years who shied away from using various technologies (and some still do, as they only want to use the technologies they must, i.e., computer, Internet, email, but not IM, not IRC, etc.). It’s a top-down approach that must be taken, ensuring that the senior editors, the editors, and all news staff understand — and can use — new technologies as they are introduced. Instead of being technophobes, newsroom staff must learn to adapt to new technologies as they emerge, not wait until they are “hot items” among teenagers.

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