Professor John Proctor
September 12, 2013
Participatory and citizen’s journalism has becoming commonplace in international and digital media. All over the world everyday people are reporting on events and happenings from all over the world through blogs, social media, twitter and video hosting sites such as youtube. Everything from The Huffington Post, to Twitter, to WordPress, the service this class is using now, is contributing to the popularity of participatory journalism. It’s no surprise, however, that mainstream media outlets are going to try to take advantage of this new ‘trend’. The best example of this is probably CNN’s iReports.
CNN is not shy about experimenting with new technology. They were the first of the big three cable news channels to use twitter as the primary way to incorporate the public’s opinion into their normal television broadcasts. Sometimes they go a little to far, like when they tried to emulate hologram communications from Star Wars on election night 2008. CNN has again decided to hop on the wave of new media as it experiments with content not produced by CNN.
The iReport section of CNN claims “Journalism has been forever changed — I’d argue for the better — thanks to the fact that people can interact with media organizations and share their opinions, personal stories, and photos and videos of news as it happens.” According to CNN, over 100,000 stories were posted in iReport in 2012. 10,000 of which were supposedly vetted and fact checked and approved for broadcast or publication by CNN.
At first glance, this seems beneficial. A major cable news network is airing the voices of the people, how great is that? But is it really that different from what a network like CNN does on a daily basis? If CNN is allowing users to submit their content and then goes on decide which stories to fact check and report on, very little has changed. Anyone can report on anything, the crux of the issue is that who will see it? Issues need coverage and attention from the public, which is more than just space for a web page of text or video. CNN’s iReport may give anybody the right to report or comment on events or happenings, but what is actually seen is still decided by “gatekeepers”, contrary to what participatory and citizen’s journalism is supposed to be about.
CNN has certainly made an effort to incorporate user participation into their website and network. If anything though, it’s just changed how information is collected not how it’s reported. As long as the user is left out of the process, CNN’s iReport will fall victim to the countless other stories that get reported on every year by legitimate sources but never get the coverage or media attention they deserve and until that changes CNN iReport is just an imitator.