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Monday, March 3, 2008

iReport: CNN's path-breaking new citizen media site

Mainstream media marries alternative media! A media revolution of sorts! But, before I explain this path-breaking development of CNN's iReport.com let me take you through some background.

Today, media is no longer about one-way flow of information; it has increasingly become two-way, and the catalyst is technology. As individuals launched their own webjournals as blogs, the conventional media had to change. Now most media organisations have their own interactive platforms.

BBC's TV has Have Your Say and BBC Radio has World Have Your Say. The Guardian has Comment is Free. In India The Times of India has turned the good-old Letters to Editor column into its new avataar of My Times My Voice. CNN-IBN TV channel has given space on their airtime to reports filed by citizens and has Citizen Journalist on its website. NDTV has My News wherein viewers are allowed to pick stories they consider most important for telecast, and on its website it has NDTV Interactive. Basically, in each of these ventures, readers are given space (albeit quite small) in the conventional media. Today, all this has provided plenty of opportunity for the citizen to express himself or herself in the traditional media. By any stretch of imagination, this is quite a revolution.

But now, CNN has taken this to a new level, by launching iReport.com: for uncensored, unedited, user-powered news. This is by far the best ever recognition of the alternative citizen media by mainstream media.

In all the above examples, the mainstream media decides the topic on which the citizens can air their views. There is a certain amount of control the media exercises. But now that barrier has been breached with iReport.com.

CNN's iReport until recently was restricted to video clippings sent by viewers. It was vetted and only if found appropriate would be telecast. But now in iReport no editing, no filtering.

About iReport:
  • The content on iReport is not pre-vetted or pre-read by CNN. This is your platform. In some journalistic circles, this is considered disruptive, even controversial! But we know the news universe is changing. We know that even here, at CNN, we can't be everywhere, all the time following all the stories you care about. So, we give you iReport.com. You will program it, you will police it; you will decide what’s important, what's interesting, what’s news. More

This is, I guess, the first instance of a reputed news organisation opening up its space to put up unverified content. The only saving grace is the disclaimer: "The views and contents on this site are solely those of the iReport.com contributors. CNN makes no guarantees about the content or the coverage on iReport.com." But the very act of giving space to such content itself is revolutionary. This is by far the closest mainstream media has come to courting alternative citizen media.

What next?

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