Have cellphone-camera, will report

There have been several forays into “citizen journalism” — or “networked journalism” as Jeff Jarvis likes to call it — with the BBC being one of the major media outlets to have invited users to submit photos and stories. ABC News is also working with Vancouver-based social-media site NowPublic, as described here.

Now, Yahoo and Reuters are getting into the game, according to the New York Times (reg. required). Starting today, photos and videos submitted by the general public — through a website called You Witness News — will be included in the news feeds that appear on Yahoo News and the Reuters website, and next year those submissions (which are vetted by editors) will start being distributed to mainstream media outlets as well.


The issue of payment continues to be one of the major sticking points in these efforts, which Seth Finkelstein likes to call “digital sharecropping.” The BBC has said that it will pay those who submit photos or videos, but only if they are significant in some way — and what would qualify as significant remains to be defined (would video of Michael Richards having a racist meltdown qualify?). Reuters plans to pay if photos are distributed to media outlets, but not if they just appear on Yahoo:

Users will not be paid for images displayed on the Yahoo and Reuters sites. But people whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters clients will receive a payment. Mr. Ahearn said the company had not yet figured out how to structure those payments.

Should “citizen journalists” be paid for photos when they are used, even on the Web? Freelancers get paid, even if they aren’t stringers. And if they are paid, how much should they be paid? Should they be able to retain the copyright and sell it elsewhere, or should they have to surrender their rights in order to be compensated?

These are some of the issues big media and new media have to confront. More on this from Cynthia Brumfield at IPDemocracy, Staci at PaidContent and Om Malik at Gigaom — three excellent examples of new media in the flesh. At ZDNet, blogger/columnist Steve O’Hear (who produced and appeared in the documentary In Search of the Valley) also has some thoughts.

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