Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?

Recently I’ve become involved in a relative new project, The Lichfield Blog. As you may gather from the name it’s a blog, about Lichfield.

I’m really proud to be part of something that has such a switched on and engaged little team behind it.

It was especially gratifying to watch as the story of a fire in one of Lichfield’s pubs quickly made it onto the blog just 3 hours after the initial call to the emergency services. Obviously we were lucky to have one of our team walk past at the right moment with a camera phone – a photo quickly made it’s way on to Twitter and a few tweets later the post was up.

The blog’s creator, Ross, made a call to the fire service about the incident and learned that no-one else had picked up on the story yet. It seemed we had beaten the local media. Having seen other, more high-profile, stories break on Twitter that doesn’t surprise me but it did make me think about all this “newspapers are dead” talk.

The blog has a few hundred visitors now, which is great, but it’s never going to kill the newspapers in Lichfield. I wouldn’t want it to either – there are plenty of people throughout the world, not just in Lichfield, who like to read a paper.

So the question isn’t, “are newspapers going to die?”, but rather “how can newspapers use citizen journalism?”

A good example is the Pancake Race in Lichfield. Nick Brickett has been providing photography for The Lichfield Blog, his first assignment being the traditional Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. His photos of the event made their way onto the Express & Star web site (ironically, as I write this, said web site is down!)

This could be the way journalism is going. Another great example is Channel 4 News (who my Twitter followers will know full well I admire).

Their coverage of the Schiphol plane crash was very much driven by Twitter. I sat in front of Tweetdeck and watched it all unfold in front of my eyes, from them picking up the story, contacting an eye witness to putting a Twit on the lunch time news. It was a first for them and possibly for journalism in the UK.

Krishnan Guru-Murphy of Channel 4 News says that Twitter is “just another way of finding people and talking“.

I suspect some journalists will treat services like Twitter and citizen journalism in general as a threat rather than an asset. I’ve heard of publications shutting down because they just can’t sustain themselves for much longer (obviously the ‘crunch’ doesn’t help) but instead of shutting down, I believe they should adapt and grow with the times.

And let’s face it, it’s cheaper to do it online!

Do you think the internet is a threat to traditional media, or should traditional media adapt and embrace services like Twitter as sources for news?

2 thoughts on “Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?”

  1. It’s been a pretty good weekend all told over on The Lichfield Blog and much of it has been to do with the ‘citizen journalism’ side of things.

    But I’m sure that in comparison to the more established newspaper sites we’re small fry (even if they will be smarting over us getting the odd one over on them). What the recent firsts from us (the Buck fire, Michael Fabricant’s Lichfield Trent Valley question and the naming of Stuart Turner as the man killed on a level crossing) do show is that small operations like us can react quicker and have the facility to update our sites while many others run a 9-5 newsroom. I was amazed that no-one has still followed up our naming of Stuart Turner, but that’s probably because a) no-one was working over the weekend at the big papers, and b) they don’t actually understand how to find content online.

    In terms of the future of traditional media, some will survive and adapt, others will fall by the wayside. But blogs and small sites alone won’t be the decisive factor. The key will come when advertisers make the switch. Having worked in regional media, I know how few advertisers ‘get’ online marketing. What they fail to realise is that by advertising on a site such as ours, they’ll be talking to Lichfield people who really care about the area – after all, they wouldn’t be visiting us if they didn’t. Yes, the local freesheets may have thousands of copies, but how many are actually read or digested by the people the advertisers really want to speak to?

    Best get off my soapbox – I could write a whole article on this!!!

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