User-generated news. I've been hearing various media professionals lately criticizing moves in the industry that have led to columnists and journalists being let go in favor of less professional content and more homespun analysis. The blogosphere replaces professional writers, the collective intelligence the singular expert.
Now, certainly, even groups like C3 who value the idea of reader-writer dialogue and the sort agree that we're not going to see the professional disappear but rather be joined by non-professional voice who deserve a degree of validity.
Yet, I have heard of several instances lately in which a news division or editorial section dumps the staff entirely in favor of user-generated news and opinion. The most recent example came from earlier this month, in The San Francisco Chronicle, which carried a story about a small TV station, owned by Clear Channel, which fires its news staff and is looking for programming directly from its viewers.
The station is KFTY, situated in Santa Rosa, and it is listed as "covering one-eighth of the Bay Area" with an area so concentrated and ratings so low that it can't even be measured by Nielsen.
The station, "Channel 50," is asking the community "its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others--to provide programming for the station."
With news stories pulled from larger operations, the idea is that this viewer-generated news would fill in the local gaps. No word yet on whether viewers will be compensated for their content, but this is seen at the station as a revolution, as an example of citizen journalism.
In the story, Joe Garofoli writes, "Media analysts believe there may be 700 citizen journalism outfits reporting on geographic nooks of the country and countless other bloggers doing various versions of the local news."
The article brings questions as to whether there can be the same level of trust in a citizen journalist and also questions the level of writing but points out that this is perhaps not the goal of citizen journalism in the first place. "In a J-Lab survey released this month, many citizen journalists felt they were 'a success' not because they had tons of readers, but because they had called attention to local problems overlooked by larger media outlets."
The article also included discussion about citizen journalism in helping cover breaking news, leaving more in-depth pieces to the pros.
Yahoo Media Group's Scott Moore says, these stories will evolve "wiki-style."
I wrote back in October that "citizen journalism does not seek to replace professional journalism but rather to augment it," and a situation where the news staff was let go probably had less to do with the rise of citizen journalism and more to do with the elimination of a news staff in the first place. The citizen journalism submissions merely came after-the-fact.
The Yahoo! quote was from the story, and no one at Yahoo! was contacted during the writing of this piece.