Reports of my death, yadda yadda yadda.
I’m alive. My friends are starting to ask where I’ve disappeared to, so I thought I’d at least post something. I’ve had ideas for things to write, but I’ve pretty much been too tired or lazy to start writing about them.
I did read something interesting today, though: Apparently, Yahoo! and the Reuters news agency have partnered up with a new service called You Witness News. It’s a service that lets citizens upload photographs of news events and get paid to have them published. Say, for example, that you’re present at a political demonstration and take pictures of a person giving a speech. You could be paid to have those photos published. Think of it like the ultimate freelancing gig.
Naturally, the “professional” news outlets are decrying this. I can only assume that they feel that this “cheapens” their own profession because now any joe schmo with a camera could get paid for what they’re worked hard for. You know what my advice to these professionals is?
Deal with it.
As a former student journalist myself, I’m firmly of the opinion that journalism has changed subtly but significantly over the last several years and with the Internet has grown into a different beast altogether. It’s only through its evolution and ultimate re-emergence as a new form of media that it will be able to survive. Journalists had felt for years that blogs weren’t true journalism either—that is, until they needed to start citing blogs as news sources. Then it suited them just fine. Now, even the news organizations have blogs.
So how is this any different? This is just another extension of “Web two-point-oh.” It’s another means to get the community involved in what happens around them. I don’t really see how getting the general public more involved in the world around them is in any way a bad thing.
Now, I’m not suggesting that any person with a cameraphone can suddenly be the next Pulitzer winner. But even point-and-click digital cameras are getting to the point where they can take print-quality photos (or, hell, near-print-quality at any rate) without a second thought. And sure, most of what they take is going to be crap. But that’s really no different than professional photographers. 95% of what they take is crap, too, but professionals know what the trick to true greatness in a photo is: timing. They take and take and take and take photos until they manage to snap that perfect shot. It’s only a matter of time before the ordinary joes can do it too.
Hell, maybe this will even increase competition in the journalism industry. At least by paying these citizen journalists, they’re creating demand. Maybe we’ll ultimately see better journalism come out of this.
…Or maybe we’ll just see more paparazzi. I haven’t decided yet.