Steve Outing writes about citizen journalism here. There are, he says, 11 layers to citizen journalism that if carried out correctly will lead to a healthy news experience for all involved. Even the journalists.
Step one is to allow your readers to add comments. Simple. I do that here (although comments are a bit sparse on this blog. Hint.), and so do a lot of news sites — but only in moderation. Why not, Steve says, allow comments on letters pages, on calendars, on everything? That’s a truly interactive experience.
Down the other end of the advice ladder is step 11: WikiNews. It’s, as he says, a bit of a “way out there” plan, but if users of Wikipedia can create a reliable(ish) encyclopedia, then surely the same type of user can handle writing news? Yeah, I’m undecided on that one too.
I’m a fan of citizen journalism. If managed correctly, it’s brilliant. Better than conventional journalism, certainly. What I don’t like, though, is when professional journalism parades itself around pretending to be citizen journalism when it clearly isn’t.
The BBC is guilty of this.
News stories do not, generally, have comment facilities. Why not?
The ‘Have Your Say’ section is kept away from the news in its own little corner of the website. Yes, keep it in one place, but it can be integrated further.
Worst of all is this: Your News.
This isn’t citizen journalism. Many editors seem to fall into the trap of marginalising citizen journalism stories into the sort you’d find dug deep down on a regional news bulletin.
“Oh look, here’s a sick dog!” or “We had a sports day! Yippee!”
Patronising, boring rubbish.
Citizen journalism can be used to do great things. Get footage that journalists can’t even dream of. So why is it being wasted? What are we afraid of?