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CNN gives nod to citizen journalists

Last week, CNN launched its new citizen journalism website, www.iReport.com, to which users can post video, photo, and audio files — sans editing. The site acts as a follow-up to CNN’s 2006 iReport initiative, which encouraged citizen journalism, although ended up featuring less than 10 percent of submitted material, either on air or on www.CNN.com.

This updated version of iReport ensures that all content submitted by users — rather, by citizens journalists — will be posted on the website, free of editing or fact-checking by CNN. The site itself largely resembles other online spaces centered around user content postings, such as YouTube, as it features listings of recently uploaded and highly viewed videos and images.
However, iReport differs from other video-based websites in that it is backed by a trustworthy news source, CNN. The result, something like a more-legitimate YouTube, should attract web surfers looking for real news by citizen journalists. Moreover, this website will act as a backdrop for the potential reinventing of what constitutes newsworthy information: If new trends in content emerge out of iReport’s user postings, the face of the news may evolve to be more representative of what real people truly want to hear and learn about. As CNN puts faith and trust in its users that they will be responsible citizen journalists and only post appropriate and accurate things, iReport will empower users to use the website to voice their ideas.

Additionally, as the site acts as somewhat of a blog — unedited, user-centered, and malleable — CNN is indirectly lending credibility to the blogging format. As proud supporters of the blogosophere, we commend the fact that a legitimate news source, well-established in the public sector, is supporting this more informal, user-based style of newsmaking.

Of course, there is a concern that iReport could wind up a little too much like YouTube and other similar services — full of dancing webcam users and melodramatic squirrels. We can only wait and see what direction the website will take, and that all depends on the content that citizen journalists decide to post.