Citizen Journalists Are Always Ready – Are You?

May 5, 2017

by Dan Ward

In the aftermath of the United Airlines “re-accommodating” incident, we’ve seen more headlines about airlines acting badly, usually accompanied by grainy cellphone video shot by concerned passengers.

There’s blood in the water, and “citizen journalists” at airports around the country are at the ready to report on any misstep.

What happens when they leave the airport and point their cameras at your company?

Many organizations “media train” their corporate spokespersons and C-Suite executives (we prefer to call it message training, because the process works beyond the traditional media interview).  But how many are training their front-line staff, the people who interact with customers on a daily basis, and whose comments and actions will be recorded by citizen journalists as soon as anything goes wrong?

Front-line staff need to know that they work in an environment in which every action they take may be recorded and reported.  They need to understand how to communicate the company’s key message with every customer they meet, in the knowledge that their interactions may be published on a blog or podcast.  They need to understand that their actions and comments could mean the difference between a happy customer and a viral video that will cost revenue and jobs.

Are your employees ready?


The Trust Crisis

March 23, 2017

by Roger Pynn

When I first read this article about research conducted by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, I wanted someone to slap me awake.  “Could this really require research?” I asked.

The study concludes that Americans who find “news” online, it is not the organization that creates the news, but who shares it via social media that determines how much they trust the information.  In other words, if your beloved Aunt Jane (the one the family calls “Saint Jane”) shares an article on Facebook, you are far more likely to believe it because she shared it than whether it came from a highly recognized news organization like, for instance, the Associated Press.

As I read the story a second time, my attitude changed to “isn’t it a darned shame that news outlets lost sight of the basics of human trust?”

I’m like everyone else … concerned over the unraveling of American news media (I’ll not worry about media in Russia).  It goes way beyond the shrinking number of classically trained journalists, the shuttering of some fine papers and magazines, and certainly, the striking lack of editing or adherence to basic principles that used to restrict opinion creep.  I’m worried about the apparent inability of most people to recognize the difference between news and commentary – and that includes a lot of people who claim to be journalists.

This single comment left me reeling:

“All of this suggests that a news organization’s credibility both as a brand and for individual stories is significantly affected by what kinds of people are sharing it on social media sites such as Facebook. The sharers act as unofficial ambassadors for the brand, and the sharers’ credibility can influence readers’ opinions about the reporting source.”

Of course!  For Pete’s sake, are you going to accept something your most trusted friend tells you?  Even if it is published by some outlet you’ve never heard of?  You’ve probably never heard of the American Press Institute before, but if you’re reading our blog it is most likely because we have a relationship and you’re therefore likely to believe I wouldn’t share something with you if it was not reliable information.

All this boils down to the colossal failure of media organizations to earn trust.  It isn’t just because the President of the United States is cutting them up like paper dolls.  He’s simply capitalizing on their failure to create a relationship.  Facebook gets you to like someone.  Do you ever wonder whether your newspaper cares if you like them?


CNN’s iReport takes a Step in the Right Direction

November 14, 2011

by Kim Taylor

We haven’t exactly been shy about our feelings for CNN’s iReport, but I think CNN’s latest move to re-launch iReport as a ‘social network for news’ is the smartest thing to happen in media since catvertising (OK, I’m kidding about that last part … hopefully they are, too.).

When my partner, Dan Ward, wrote about CNN iReport, he was clearly disturbed by the news organization’s burning desire to create would-be journalists out of any schmuck with a video camera.  And, who could blame him?  While I can see the cursory value, I also acknowledge that the lines between hard-hitting journalist and blogger are already blurry enough.

iReport’s re-launch includes the addition of profiles, the ability to follow users, and badges—all of which make the site much more “social network” and hopefully much less likely to be confused with CNN’s vetted news products.

I think this is a step in the right direction, what do you think?


The CNN School of Journalism

August 23, 2011

by Dan Ward

More than a year ago, I wrote about the wonders of CNN’s iReport, the website run by the former “Worldwide Leader in News” that lets you report the news all by yourself, as I put it, “without all the worry over silly details like sourcing and verification.”

It seems CNN agrees that allowing millions of people to report news with absolutely zero journalistic training might not be the greatest of ideas, so it now has opened its own virtual school of journalism for iReporters.

The CNN iReport Boot Camp trains aspiring citizen journalists on important topics, such as “Pick your story,” “Find your sources” and “Headline writing, story building.”  One boot camp story provides sage advice on locating credible sources and fact-checking, telling iReporters, for example, to “pick up the phone to give officials a fair chance to comment.”

The lesson for iReporters?  Act more like CNN’s own trained journalists when developing and posting your stories.

Great idea, except for one minor detail.  Unlike CNN’s own trained journalists, you still have no requirement as an iReporter to FOLLOW these guidelines.  Consider them suggestions.  You still can post your story without any fact-checking, without verifying sources, without any semblance of objectivity, if that’s how you choose to report.  As CNN states, “The stories here are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post.”

CNN says that one of the goals of CNN iReport is to “expand the current definition of news.”  If that definition no longer includes accuracy, fairness and objectivity, CNN, by all means consider this experiment a success.


Have iPhone … Will Report

May 27, 2010

by Dan Ward

Do you have a smart phone, a Flip video recorder or both?  Well, do I have good news for you!  Thanks to your ability to shoot a photo or video and hit “send,” you too can be a journalist for one of the world’s leading news organizations!

Don’t worry about training or accuracy.  That’s old-school reporting.  Here’s all you need to do:

Shoot your “news” story.  It could be about anything, from important issues like the imploding world economy to your views on American Idol.  Now, go to the website for CNN (the former “Worldwide Leader in News” that now bills itself as among the world leaders in “information delivery”).

Click on iReport, and then post your news story for all the world to see.  Done!

I know, it sounds too good to be true.  Surely, one of the most trusted names in news wouldn’t risk its hard-earned credibility in the pursuit of lucrative website clicks, would it?

Well, don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what CNN has to say:  “iReport is the way people like you report the news.  The stories in this section are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post.”

Now you, too, can report the news, without all that worry over silly details like sourcing and verification.  So log on today.  Just think of the amazing stories you can tell!


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