Citizen Journalism – it's the new 'new media'!

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Jon_smal.gifJonathan Weinberg writes…

AFTER the events of the past few days, it’s not difficult to see we’re living in changing times.

And if the attempted bomb attacks across the UK prove one thing – it’s that anyone can be a journalist!

Having been gripped to the telly bulletins and newspapers, I’ve been amazed at just how much of their content has been supplied by the ordinary man or woman on the street – with their trusty mobile replacing the pen or computer as a means of recording the story.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, so it seems it’s no longer the first reaction to run when caught up in a terror scare, it’s to grab the handset from your pocket, snap a few shots and quickly MMS it off to Sky News or the tabloids.

For the first couple of hours after the Glasgow event, Sky News was chock full of footage from witnesses taken on the crudest of handsets.

It didn’t matter that the images were blurry or pixelated, what was more important is these were real, bang-up-to-date scenes as seen through the eyes of those right there.

Before 7/7, citizen journalism as it’s known, was hardly spoken of. But with shots of the Jeep ablaze and alleged terrorists sprawled on the floor burning, it’s fast becoming an indispensible tool for editors across the world.

Having worked at The Sun I know firsthand just how important such reader reaction is and there’s big money to be earned for the right picture or piece of video. Catch a celebrity in a real dodgy position and it could be worth thousands of pounds.

After all, why do you think the paparazzi go to such great lengths for that one all-important image?

And with even the most basic of mobile handsets now capable of producing good results, and phones like Nokia’s N95 rivalling your digital camera, there’s a whole world of opportunities opening up if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a star or unlucky enough to be caught in a disaster like the recent floods.

Again, this natural disaster saw a deluge of home-shot video sent to news organisations. Even Dame Shirley Bassey was recently caught out when her helicopter got into trouble flying back from Glastonbury – no sooner had she managed to step off the chopper in a Surrey field than there was some clever kid shoving their handset in her face.

Marc Webber, assistant editor for thesun.co.uk, said: “The citizen journalist is becoming one of the most powerful resources any media company can have. By encouraging readers and viewers to send in useful content, you are not only adding to your excellent offering, but you are making them feel that they are part of setting your news agenda.”

Now all you need to do is make sure your mobi is always charged up – how sick would you feel spotting that compromised celeb and then realising you’ve run out of juice!

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Jonathan Weinberg