we reported that citizen journalism had gone undeniably mainstream after both Reuters and CNN embraced citizen journalism techniques and amateur reporting itself in the coverage of important news stories (perhaps most notably at the time, the California wildfires). Today the Times writes in two separate stories how techniques and technologies pioneered by citizen journalism are changing the way we get news.The New York Times ran two stories today affirming the usefulness of citizen journalists and microjournalism tools to the reporting of major news stories. In October
Noam Cohen reports on the use of Twitter on the campaign trail in the ongoing US presidential elections. The article describes the use of Twitter by John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate. "Microjournalism is the latest step in the evolution of Mr. Dickerson, who worked for years at Time magazine, and has moved from print to online articles to blog entries to text messages no longer than 140 characters, or about two sentences," writes Cohen.
According Dickerson, tools like Twitter provide a way for reporters to disseminate information quickly while a story may still be unfolding. "It is much more authentic, because it really is from inside the room," he says, describing Twitter reporting the way someone might a live television newscast.
In another piece, the NYT writes about blogger Michael Yon, who uses his blog to cover the Iraq war from the front lines. "Michael Yon was not a journalist, and he wasnt sure what a blogger was," the piece begins. But after spending more time embedded with US soldiers in Iraq than any other journalist, and writing about his experience on his web site, Yon "has recently, grudgingly, accepted that he has become a journalist."
The Times praises Yon's reporting, who went to Iraq because he thought the mainstream media was "bungling the story."
"Along the way, he created a niche outlet that is better reported than most blogs, and more opinionated than most news reporting, with enough first-hand observation, clarity and skepticism to put many professional journalists to shame," writes Richard Perez-Pena. "The Internet has fostered such citizen journalism, shaking up ideas about where news comes from, but few have taken on the expense and danger of working in a war zone."
The story notes that bloggers and citizen journalists have swelled in ranks in Iraq, while the number of mainstream journalists operating there has shrunk, putting added emphasis on the reporting that amateurs are doing.
The New York Times itself has experimented in recent months with running content from amateur journalists. We reported last month that the paper would begin running videos produced by an amateur production company about the US presidential race, and since October it has run a series of video debates from Bloggingheads.tv. They also recently sponsored the Polling Places project, which uses contributions from readers to document polling places on film during the 2008 US elections.
The rise of tools like Twitter and blogs to report on events as they happen is something we recently predicted will be a growing trend in the coming year. Stories like those in today's New York Times help validate citizen journalists and the tools they use as legitimate methods of reporting breaking news.