As part of MTV's coverage of the 2008 presidential elections in the US, the media network assembled a "street team" of 51 amateur journalists -- one in each state and the District of Columbia -- to file blog reports, photos, videos, and audio podcasts about election issues during the course of the campaign season. The videos are being syndicated to MTV's mobile web site, social network, and to the Associate Press Online Video Network. Members of the street team have been outfitted with laptops, video phones, and other popular tools of the citizen journalist via funding from a $700,000 grant from the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation's Knight News Challenge.
For Super Tuesday (February 5), in which 23 states in the US hold primary elections, Caroline McCarthy reports that MTV will be leaning heavily on their citizen journalism street team. Members of the team in the 23 voting states will be filing live video field reports via Nokia N95 handsets. As McCarthy notes, this is the first time MTV has done live mobile-to-web video reporting.
The N95, as readers of this blog will recall, is also being used by Reuters as part of a "Mobile Journalism Toolkit," which some Reuters field reporters are testing to help them file stories from the field and use the cell phone's camera to take photos and videos of news events. This is all part of a growing trend toward legitimizing citizen journalism and the embrace by mainstream media of amateur journalism's tools and techniques.
"'Citizen journalism' is beginning to embrace a wide range of public engagement with the media," said Timo Koskinen, project manager with Nokia Research Center when the mobile toolkit was announced, "from groups of contributors organized around subject or geographic areas to the casual participation of observers who are lucky - or unlucky - enough to be at the scene of a newsworthy event."
Yesterday we wrote about Twitter's growing influence in the reporting of news and its use by mainstream news reporters as an information distribution tool. It is interesting that while MTV is building technology to instantly stream live mobile video reports from amateur reporters in 23 states, they're apparently not planning to use Twitter. Those reporters will have cell phones, afterall, making them more than capable of Twittering.
MTV has actually used Twitter before. About 4 months ago during the Video Music Awards, MTV set up a handful of Twitter accounts to stream live updates from the awards show floor. Though it featured mostly inane updates from artists and hosts, like Lil' Wayne saying, "Yo we just left the awards It was crazzzzy," it at least shows that MTV is open to trying out new tools to push information to users. Though their Twitter experiment at the VMAs resulted in sub-par content (in my opinion), it was a modest success, attracting almost 1500 followers on their main account.
Twitter or not, though, MTV's emphasis on streaming mobile video next Tuesday, and their continued use of amateur journalists during the 2008 election cycle is part of a growing trend that is pushing citizen journalism into the mainstream and increasing its impact on how we report and consume news.