August 8, 2006
CNN Exchange and User-Generated News

I've written substantially this summer about the effects that convergence is having on the journalism industry. The majority of my focus has been on transmedia news empires and my own work at the weekly newspapers here in Kentucky this summer, but there is another aspect of convergence culture that affects journalism substantially that we've only touched on vaguely: the blogosphere and citizen journalism.

The newest development in relation to citizen journalism? CNN Exchange, the viewer-produced content platform available online which launched at the beginning of this month.

I've written previously about Smoking Gun's expose of James Frey's plagiarism and how it's an example of Dan Gillmor's book and blog called We the Media. And, as Gillmor has focused on exhaustively, this participatory aspect of journalism has seeped further and further into print and television journalism: from BBC's focus on blogosphere response to newspapers and television accepting pictures taken from citizens' cell phones and digital cameras.

CNN's program has gained some momentum over the past week, with Dell Computers signing on as the first sponsor for the site. The computer company will have video advertising on the site, as well as banners and other sponsorship options.

What does this mean for journalism? Citizen journalism has its opponents, but there's no doubt--as Gilmoor argues--that allowing "the masses" to have input on the news process has substantial impact on reporting greater truths becuase those masses have what Henry Jenkins writes about in Convergence Culture as collective intelligence. That doesn't mean professionals aren't needed, and CNN realizes that, but it does give greater veracity and breadth to what CNN produces.

CNN Exchange may not be scooping CNN proper on major news stories, but it also may be a place to publish what happens in the crevices that CNN misses, whether that be eclectic feature stories or what turns out to be major stories, such as the James Frey issue and countless others.