Is The Push For Citizen Journalism Promoting Risky Behavior?

from the seems-a-bit-overblown dept

Over the past few months, as the concept of “citizen journalism” has caught on — especially when combined with cameraphones — it’s become quite common to see news organizations requesting people on the street take photos of news events in action and send them in. There’s even a new service for cameraphone toting folks who want to sell images they’ve taken to news organizations. Obviously, there are many benefits to turning the whole world into instant photojournalists — starting, of course, with the fact that you have a much better chance of having someone actually at the scene of a news event when it happens. However, it’s worth remembering that these people aren’t trained as photojournalists. While that may not be a problem from the content side, it has some worried that news organizations are encouraging people to put themselves in dangerous situations when they might otherwise be much safer going away. It’s a serious issue. While, obviously, individuals should be smart enough to know when to protect their own safety, there is an open question of liability here. Should someone end up getting hurt or killed while pursuing a photo that they hoped to sell to a news organization that has asked for public photos of news events, it seems likely that a lawsuit might come out of it.

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Comments on “Is The Push For Citizen Journalism Promoting Risky Behavior?”

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BG says:

What were they thinking?...

There’s probably a whole set of journalistic ethics and rules for behavior that should be followed—if not suggested — when a news organization asks for the public to participate. What were they thinking? If they’re suggesting to act on just sending in a tip, that should maybe on one side of the line–but if they’re asking someone to participate or actively seek newsworthy events, or imply that they can, then they should be aware of the rules and guidelines that govern bonafide journalists in these areas. Maybe some kind of a citizen’s qualification course by a non-profit group is needed to “certify” at least a basic understanding. This “course” could clarify issues and grey areas, as well as maybe grant a “amatuer” journalistic status that could come with some “legal” benefits. Maybe these amatuers could rise to eventual professional level to a full-fledged pro journalists under certain conditions. Whatever the program, camera phones and the like are here to stay and will definitely get more prevalent.

Dres says:

No Subject Given

The truth is this has been around forever. In high school my friends and I used to take cameras and film everything in town and put ourselves at risky behaviour – Jumping fences, wadding through chest deep floods, climbing around unsafe construction areas. We weren’t doing it because the school asked us to for the local news program, we did it because we wanted to, we chose to put ourselves at risk. Just like the school, these news organizations aren’t saying “go out on a limb to get these photos” they are saying “If you are in the right place in the right time with a cameraphone and can get the picture send it to us”. There is a big difference. I don’t think a liability suit would hold up in court unless you got a very smart lawyer and a very stupid judge.

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