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New resource for citizen journalists

Bbc News (2009-09-17) Matthew Eltringham

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New resource for citizen journalists

Post categories: BBC News

Matthew Eltringham Matthew Eltringham | 16:10 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

What is citizen journalism? More to the point, what makes "good" citizen journalism? And what makes a good citizen journalist? Do the same principles of "conventional" journalism apply to its citizen counterpart? Or are there different rules?

Ever since 2005, when Richard Sambrook coined the phrase "we don't own the news any more", the democratisation of news has been unstoppable, with people claiming their right to tell their story the way they want to.

citizen journalistFrom bloggers or eyewitnesses to social networkers or community website hosts, the range and the experience of citizen journalists are both vast.

Many have picked up the principles of good conventional journalism and applied them to their work. Others have not had that opportunity.

The principles of "good journalism" are well established - they affect both how a journalist gathers his story as well how he reports it.

Journalists and editors working for mainstream media across the globe understand them - even if they don't always live up to them.

But what about the principles of good citizen journalism? What would a good citizen journalist do if she came across someone receiving medical treatment in the middle of Trafalgar Square? Would she start filming them? What would she do if she were asked to stop?

Should a community website publish images of 10-year-old children - who could clearly be identified - causing criminal damage on a local housing estate?

Is it okay for a blogger to reveal that his local MP is having an affair because it's "common knowledge", or claim that a local car firm is shifting stolen cars because he's got a friend in the police, who's involved in the investigation?

All BBC journalists should know the answers to these questions - or at least the issues involved in reaching the answers. Can the same be said for citizen journalists? The answers may not be the same for both, but are they equally aware of the issues involved?

And with the right to tell their own stories come responsibilities and accountability. If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, they are accountable to both their editor and their audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than himself?

The BBC has been working with citizen journalists for some time - there has been a team of journalists based in the heart of the newsroom working with user-generated content since 2005. So we are well aware of the power and importance of citizen journalism.

But there's precious little authoritative advice around on good practice for citizen journalists, so to try to help find the appropriate answers to these and many other questions, we're developing a publicly available resource.

Our intention isn't to tell people what to do or what not to do. Nor will it be an attempt to tell potential contributors what we want them to send us.

But we will be setting out how we - the BBC - see some of these issues and what we think is good practice, even if others disagree.

Most importantly, though, we want to hear what you - the citizen journalist - think are the key questions and issues and what your answers are to the key questions, because that will form an important part of the resource.

Matthew Eltringham is the assistant editor of Interactivity

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Title New resource for citizen journalists
Publisher Bbc News
Author Matthew Eltringham
Pub Date 2009-09-17
Media Link http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2009/09/new_resource_for_citizen_journ.html
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Topic revision: r1 - 2009-09-18, RaymondLutz
 

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