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New resource for citizen journalists

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Matthew Eltringham Matthew Eltringham | 16:10 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

What is citizen journalism? More to the point, what makes "good" citizen journalism? And what makes a good citizen journalist? Do the same principles of "conventional" journalism apply to its citizen counterpart? Or are there different rules?

Ever since 2005, when Richard Sambrook coined the phrase "we don't own the news any more", the democratisation of news has been unstoppable, with people claiming their right to tell their story the way they want to.

citizen journalistFrom bloggers or eyewitnesses to social networkers or community website hosts, the range and the experience of citizen journalists are both vast.

Many have picked up the principles of good conventional journalism and applied them to their work. Others have not had that opportunity.

The principles of "good journalism" are well established - they affect both how a journalist gathers his story as well how he reports it.

Journalists and editors working for mainstream media across the globe understand them - even if they don't always live up to them.

But what about the principles of good citizen journalism? What would a good citizen journalist do if she came across someone receiving medical treatment in the middle of Trafalgar Square? Would she start filming them? What would she do if she were asked to stop?

Should a community website publish images of 10-year-old children - who could clearly be identified - causing criminal damage on a local housing estate?

Is it okay for a blogger to reveal that his local MP is having an affair because it's "common knowledge", or claim that a local car firm is shifting stolen cars because he's got a friend in the police, who's involved in the investigation?

All BBC journalists should know the answers to these questions - or at least the issues involved in reaching the answers. Can the same be said for citizen journalists? The answers may not be the same for both, but are they equally aware of the issues involved?

And with the right to tell their own stories come responsibilities and accountability. If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, they are accountable to both their editor and their audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than himself?

The BBC has been working with citizen journalists for some time - there has been a team of journalists based in the heart of the newsroom working with user-generated content since 2005. So we are well aware of the power and importance of citizen journalism.

But there's precious little authoritative advice around on good practice for citizen journalists, so to try to help find the appropriate answers to these and many other questions, we're developing a publicly available resource.

Our intention isn't to tell people what to do or what not to do. Nor will it be an attempt to tell potential contributors what we want them to send us.

But we will be setting out how we - the BBC - see some of these issues and what we think is good practice, even if others disagree.

Most importantly, though, we want to hear what you - the citizen journalist - think are the key questions and issues and what your answers are to the key questions, because that will form an important part of the resource.

Update 28 September: I talked about this issue on the World Service's Over to You programme on 26 September. (Apologies - this paragraph originally read "October" where it should have been "September".)

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Matthew Eltringham is the assistant editor of Interactivity

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Matthew,

    That is very good news in the regards of a new resource of citizen journalists....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 2.

    Matthew:

    Should a community website publish images of 10-year-old children - who could clearly be identified - causing criminal damage on a local housing estate?

    Technically yes, but Legally NO...Since, the laws against confidentiality comes in strength...

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 3.

    When the fiancial crisis became public many people received notices that their personal retirement accounts had been diminished. No one has ever investigated where this money went, how it disappeared. Is it in the accounts of bankers and financial services? It would be interesting to have the BBC explain to the public where their personal funds have gone. Secondly, were their attempts to control this situation through regulation and if so who was involved in not having the regulations instituted. There has been no personal responsbility assigned in any of this and it appears that efforts are currently underway to defeat any attempts to regulate bankers and financial services. Maybe some x-banker could send in the truth.

  • Comment number 4.

    he legal aspects are quite interesting, the other day i did a google search on rupert murdoch and quickly found my self drawn into a shodowy world of rumour, lies and downright defamation.

    Most of the most obvious offenders were private blogs At some point I expect that a powerful individual, or organisation may want to try to scour the web of such materials, in a similar way to how 20th century fox scoured the web of all unoficial Simpsons fan sites a few years back.

    So i suppose wer'e living in a golden age of freedom speech, but the abuses of some will ultimately lead to restrictions on all.

  • Comment number 5.

    There is a wealth of difference between "being on the spot" when something happens, and writing something because it is an "agenda" you have. Professional journalists face this all the time and there are moments when the two collide - you have both the "story" and the "agenda" in coincidence. What do professionals do at such times?

    As an example let's say that a journalist (amateur or professional) suspects their partner (Pat) of having an affair; lets call the journalist Jo and the suspect adulterer Fancy.

    One evening walking through town Jo sees Fancy smoking a cigarette outside a block of flats. He checks his watch and it is 8.30pm. Some time later Jo gets a call from the boss to check out a crime story. During the process of checking out the crime and taking what photos are allowed, Jo becomes aware that the police suspect that Fancy committed the crime. Now there is a conflict of interests. Even more difficult for Jo to deal with is the fact that the crime was committed at 8.35pm and there is no way Fancy could have got from A to B in five minutes.

    So what does Jo do? No one knows he suspects Fancy of having an affair or that he could provide Fancy with an alibi. The crime is a serious one and Fancy is going to get a long stretch - so the affair would most likely be over.

    It is perhaps a little far fetched but it is a way of demonstrating how easy it is for "story and agenda collision" to happen and for personal matters to get between us and a good, HONEST, story. I am not sure I really know how many good, honest professional journalists there are; maybe citizen journalists have something to teach the professionals?

  • Comment number 6.

    "Ever since 2005, when Richard Sambrook coined the phrase "we don't own the news any more". The BBC has never owned the news, it has attempted to make the news, but own it never.

    "But we will be setting out how we - the BBC - see some of these issues and what we think is good practice, even if others disagree", so do as we say or we will not publish your reports?.

  • Comment number 7.

    Quality of a Citizen Journalist should be that he or she reports the matter with facts and figures and without being biased. But what should be the quality of an Editor?

    An Editor should also be unbiased and publish all those material which he or she receives from Citizens Journalists.

    So an unbiased Citizen Journalist and an unbiased Editor can work together. If a Citizen Journalist reports a matter, an Editor must publicize the write up without any fear.

    Print and electronic media all over the world maintain ‘individual policy’ of accepting or rejecting comments received from Citizens Journalists.

    The bottom line is that the ‘traffic’ should be two ways. One way traffic does not work.

  • Comment number 8.

    This word "journalist" is much misused. Personally, I view it like this:

    REPORTER: First person on the spot telling the story. ("I'm here at the huge blaze, where fireman are working frantically to control the fire".) We can all be one of these - we may not write well, but we can all report on what we see.

    COMMENTATOR: The person with an opinion about the fire. ("The authorities should have responded quicker".) We can all be one of these, too, as we opine against anything we don't like - usually with our own prejudices and ignorance/ brilliance showing through.

    JOURNALIST: The PROFESSIONAL who looks at the big picture, asks the difficult questions, and obtains perspective to the event. ("Firemen struggled to get to the fire because of traffic congestion caused by road works.") The reporter ("Johnny-on-the-spot") knows nothing of this outside event and doesn't (and shouldn't) care - his job is to report what he sees. The commentator is trying to make a point, and we can agree or disagree as we see fit.

    The journalist is the most important person here. Unfortunataly, with blogs like this one and the internet in general giving us all an opportunity to report and opine, we're drowning out the true professional journalist. And without this element of the news business we just get livid headlines and biased opinion makers - arguably, people like you and me.

    Society and even democracy itself absolutely need journalists as defined above. Reporters and opinion makers are a dime-a-dozen - but the person with the time and the dedication to ask the right questions to give us a full and unbiased picture of complex and difficult events, is becoming a very rare bird.

    As newspapers die off, TV news looks to its ratings, and the internet delivers shallow and instant gratification, the true journalist is finding it increasingly difficult to find a home. We're already seeing people at Fox Noise claiming to be "journalists" when, in fact, the are nothing more than (very) biased commentators - and some would say we're seeing the same thing at the BBC from the other side of the political divide.

    Love them or hate them, for the sake of our democracy, we need to save the professional journalist.

  • Comment number 9.

    I suppose if the BBC is to harness this rich vein of instant, FREE news, then it must organise it to fit in with its particular requirements. So, ground rules and editors.

    In imposing both, the BBC is destroying - or about to destroy- a spontaneous upsurge of contributions to the common interest.

    Much better there be one maxim. Let the lawyer's word be final. All imv.

  • Comment number 10.

    What excellent news this is !!! I was getting fed-up of all the ill-informed claptrap, inaccurate information and downright claptrap in the blogosphere. So I am very pleased that from this day forth there will be no bias, total commitment to impartiality and a post-Hutton commitment to dual-sourcing of all stories by all bloggers everywhere !

    Excellent !

  • Comment number 11.

    3. At 13:02 pm on 18 Sep 2009, JunkkMale wrote:
    Good to see a new entry now 'open for comments' again. Well, until it isn't, I guess. That would be ironic.

    I do love the drip drip in the mainstream about those that are not 'in the club'. You know, the one where "we don't own the news any more".

    But amongst the grudging concessions, you do still get the gems.

    '..people claiming their right to tell their story the way they want to.' As opposed to with narratives enhanced, events interpreted or emerging truths facilitated?

    I do note the concession 'All BBC journalists should know the answers to these questions - or at least the issues involved in reaching the answers.' . Well, you'd hope, but that is a mighty big 'should', and the evidence would suggest that 'we' are all in this together, you and 'us'. Just ask the Queen, depending on which way she is headed.

    '...to try to help find the appropriate answers to these and many other questions, we're developing a publicly available resource.

    In the spirit of sharing and education this is of course welcome, though the definitions of what is 'good', 'conventional', etc to some, and possibly not others, will be interesting. One person's terrorist, 'n all...:)

    'Our intention isn't to tell people what to do or what not to do.' Good show! It might be interesting to see the response if you did.

    'Nor will it be an attempt to tell potential contributors what we want them to send us.' Well, fair enough, within reason. Your ball and pitch. Mind you, who is paying for it all?

    Not sure if I see a link to any more above, so I look forward to hearing more when it transpires. Maybe with a more direct way to respond, too.

  • Comment number 12.

    What right have you got to tell other people how to practice journalism? Who do you think you are?

    How about getting rid of the BBC comments and opinions that lace nearly all news output from the BBC. How about giving us straight facts instead of the judgemental reporting we have to put up with?

  • Comment number 13.

    Love them or hate them, for the sake of our democracy, we need to save the professional journalist.

    And, maybe, support them (and their editorial partners/superiors) with our voluntary, paying eyeballs and ears, when they repay our trust with objectivity, honesty and effort, free of corporate agenda, personal belief, career-rewards based on ratings....

  • Comment number 14.

    Where the news originates and who reports on the story is neither here nor there.

    The real power of news always has been the editor. The editor shapes and prioritises the news in line with editorial policy.

    This means that they have control on where a story has a right or left wing bias, whether sides are taken in a personal dispute and ultimately whether an important story is given the air it deserves or is buried for ever because it is inconvenient to the current editorial policy.

    As an example, when dear Keith Floyd died the other day, just hours from the screening of a stunning documentary about his most recent life, it took the BBC editorial team nearly 24 hours to get that into their report - but then, the documentary was channel 4, not BBC.

    THAT is editorial.

    Where the internet has moved the goal posts is that on private sites the editor has been removed from the equation. Ok, you may think that is good as the editorial policy I list above is no longer a tether round the journalists pen.

    But on the other hand, journalists who are not regimented and controlled are just loose cannons. They become lazy about checking sources and facts, do not even pay lip service to balance, and when the story looks a little empty, simply make things up or repeat someone else's work (which was also made up)

    Outside of the news organisations, the internet is filled with junk - either the opinions of the Blogs, like my own Le Sanglier rubbish, or news type offerings that are so inaccurate as to be completely libellous.

    So, yes, advise on what is required of a citizen journalist, but most of all, keep the editors in power.

    Even if the policy they work to is less than ideal, it is the lessor of two evils.

  • Comment number 15.

    The news from citizens to the media, no matter the medium is subject to censorship particualerly where it emanates from the citizens. The consideration is determined by who pays the Editor.

    This is more glaring in the developing countries where the people do not have a say.Thus, I suggest that Editors should encourage citizen journalists by publishing their stories the way it came.

  • Comment number 16.

    Dear Mathew,
    Very good article on Citizen Journalism.
    I have read it with full attentive ways.I am a freelance writer to many leading world famous newspapers,news channels ,specially more in BBC editor!s blogs,sports-606-page and in Have Your Say.
    I am a man of true belief.Happily to say here,today, i went to important locations in Chennai, Madras, India, met a photo journalist, college students and a very intelligent dealer in all computer related materials, and experts in latest printing subjects.
    Why, i am saying here, they have come to know about BBC World Services, after my free,journalistic views, and vital aspects of this independent news networks for their surfing or listening or watching from this world famous news channels.
    This is a good point of reporting,viewing and for free and fair discussion with many notable personalities by BBC!s various methods of reaching to wide circles of this world.
    Back to your writings, i appreciate it on some fields.
    You means, your writers, reporters ,and news information seekers and broadcasters always give over coverages of America,Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and from some already well established nations.
    Why is it so?
    From college days onwards, i have been moving with all sections of professionals for broader knowledge to that subjects,education to under privileged sections, sharing of my stored and day today news to all passer byes,
    The following points for you and your journalist friends for future coverages and reporting to us.
    1.Please cover all small, under developed, malnaourished nations, uneducated persons,professors, media workers from lot of semi known countries to BBC World Services.
    2.As far as possible, please avoid a topic of the day,be a sensational, be a war related, be a alleged corruption, a undemocratic way and like small, insiginficant news often and often in BBC networks.
    3.As a special interest, please a country!s picture from A to Z to us by existing of your media tools.
    4.Major news, coverages are must come into real,genuine ,free and fair.
    %.General adage on journalism is-Pen is mightier than a Weapon.
    6.We are all living in a democratic set up.
    I wish that, lot of good citizen journalism prevails from time to time.
    With Best Wishes.,

  • Comment number 17.

    Before the members of the staff at the BBC start to advise others,perhaps they should stop producing texts containing grammatical errors,as in the following extract: (errors marked in capitals)
    As can be seen, the extract is mix of singular and plural pronouns that all refer to "a conventional journalist", ranging from THEY,THEIR and HIMSELF.

    "If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, THEY are accountable to both THEIR editor and THEIR audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than himself?"

  • Comment number 18.

    Message 9

    Now here's an interesting point.

    I contribute as "Walrus." But my comments on The Editors' blog are always published as "You".

    I have complained about this time and time again but no one takes a blind bit of notice.

    My point is, that even on an Editor's blog, the system cannot get the source right.

    "At 11:48am on 18 Sep 2009, you wrote:"

    Sorry. You did not write. Walrus did. As different as chalk and cheese.

    So even your first alleged fact is wrong. Could be important, Mr Editor.

    And Mr Moderator? What's the point?

    Yours,

    WALRUS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    See what I mean ?

  • Comment number 20.

    To get back to the topic a couple of items off the BBC News page may suggest that Citizen Journalists will be a blessed relief to what the so called "professionals" serve us up. One is "World's Shortest Man Shuns Limelight" (the media cannot find him?) and "Nigella's Naughtiest Kitchen Secret" (she does something in the porridge?).

    The BBC must tread very carefully if it is going to impose its current "editorial standards" (surely an oxymoron) on unsuspecting contributors. The BBC SHOULD occupy a neutral position in the media stakes but, frankly, the evidence no longer supports this. Over the years our public service broadcaster, entirely funded by UK citizens because even its "sold on" material is OUR material, has moved from "independence" to "story chasing" in order to "maintain audience share" a performance target imposed by exactly who?

    Citizens are not constrained by a wish to appease an unseen executive or political figure; they are not even constrained by delicate matters like upsetting minority groups which some media people give exaggerated time too in order to suggest "moral or ethical superiority".

    Of the main stories that show up the BBC for what it has become we can look at how it covered the US presidential election last year and the so called "race row" that has recently developed in the States. Compare and contrast these two events and you get the sense that nobody in positions of influence truly comprehends what integration, acceptance and respect mean.


  • Comment number 21.

    fillandfrowpist #9,18,19

    Oh, come on. I am very much on topic.

    The first rule of journalism is to check your source. Who is saying or doing what?

    I simply used this as a personal anecdote. Sorry you missed this.

    bws

  • Comment number 22.

    #22

    I didn't miss it Walrus. I have just seen you write the same thing once too many times. Sorry.

  • Comment number 23.

    Citizen journalism really goes far beyond the local stories you mention. Citizen journalists have access to thousands of sources of information across the Internet. They may not have access to the same Reuters feeds as the professionals, but frankly that is probably a good thing (i.e. no more retyped or in some cases, copy and pasted Reuters articles).

    I'm glad to see you put the term Good Journalism in quotes. Much of what goes on in professional circles is not good journalism at all. Lofty notions such as the BBC's famed "impartiality" are in practice applied only in certain circumstances. When reporting on allies you are careful and "impartial", yet when reporting on enemies like Russia, the gloves come off and professional journalists can get away with calling Russian troops brutal (Ref 1) or comparing government statements to Orwellian Newspeak (Ref 2).

    You talk of the dilemmas of what a citizen journalist should and shouldn't report. It's worth pondering on this question.

    What does a citizen journalist do when he sees pictures of white phosphorus use against Gaza plastered all over the BBC website? Does he write an article saying that it appears WP is being used, or does he, like the BBC, sit on it and avoid mentioning white phosphorus for a whole week?

    I mentioned the reporting of Russian troops being brutal earlier. In the arena of citizen journalism, you have some citizen journalists who report on Russian troops being "brutal" in various conflicts (e.g. Chechnya) and some who report on US troops being brutal. This is certainly more balanced than the BBC which, while happy to refer to Russian troops as brutal wouldn't dare to call US troops brutal.

    How does a citizen journalist react when he sees a whole city being destroyed by an occupying army? Does he focus on the suffering of civilians and question the right of the occupiers to conduct such devastating operations, as BBC's Robert Parsons did with his fist-shakingly angry report on the Russian assault on Grozny? (Ref 3). Alternatively does he instead write an "impartial" article like the BBC's "Fixing The Problem of Falljah". (Ref 4)

    Enough about war though. What about other areas? e.g. Reporting on protests. In the world of citizen journalism there are plenty of bloggers reporting on Iranian police "wildly swinging batons" during the recent protests. However there are also plenty of citizen journalists who write in very similar terms about the swinging of batons at British protests such as those at the G20. This is in stark contrast to the BBC who wouldn't dream of talking about British police batons "wildly swinging" yet is happy to use those very same terms when describing Iranian police batons. (Ref 5).

    Perhaps if professional journalists could write what they want without fear of being fired or losing out on promotion, things would be different. Then again perhaps they are already indoctrinated enough to believe that they are being impartial. After all, professional journalists go through a long selection process that the citizen journalist is not subjected to. It seems unlikely that someone who routinely wrote about US or UK troops being brutal, or British Police swinging batons wildly, would ever make it to be editor of Newnight (unless they dramatically changed their tune). Of course, someone writing the same things about Russian troops and Iranian police would have no problem finding employment at the BBC.


    What of accountability though? You say that..

    "If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, they are accountable to both their editor and their audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than himself?"

    A conventional journalist may be accountable to their employer but are they really accountable to the public? With citizen journalism you can often post a comment directly on the article in question, pointing out any errors and potentially demolishing it. This is not the case at the BBC. (Have Your Say is really not the same thing). You can of course email the journalists in question, but if you even get a response at all, many tend to get quite defensive and most emails probably just get deleted. So how are they accountable to the public when they can just direct their emails to the trash bin? In addition to this, news articles on the BBC website are very often anonymized so you have no idea who has made the mistakes anyway.

    Citizen journalism certainly has its problems, but it makes a welcome change to the filtered and selected hive-mind of the mainstream media.

    References:

    1. "Media coverage of the recent conflict is also far more restricted... [meaning] the Russian military is free to act with much greater brutality"

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1292799.stm


    2. "The Russians are calling it a peace enforcement operation, it's the kind of Newspeak that would make George Orwell proud."

    BBC Newsnight, 11/08/2008

    3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/668080.stm

    4. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3989639.stm

    5. "...wildly swinging wooden batons at anyone in their path. "

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8111695.stm

  • Comment number 24.

    Well said StevenJMUK. Every word is true and I am amazed that it passed the BBC moderation.

  • Comment number 25.

    #23 & 24

    Echo that comment silver-mary.

    Excellent piece StevenJMUK; pity you are not the BBC DG (or perhaps you glad you are not!)

  • Comment number 26.

    royalhonore complained about the following paragraph:

    "If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, THEY are accountable to both THEIR editor and THEIR audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than himself?"

    Actually, I am a professional writer and I employ this rather naff English construction all the time. It is simply a modern idiomatic way of avoiding using the clumsy "he or she" and the argument of whether the "he" or the "she" should come first.

    Otherwise we end up with:

    "If a conventional journalist gets it wrong, he or she is accountable to both his or her editor and his or her audience. Is the citizen journalist accountable to anyone other than him or herself?"

    Oh, but would it not be a boon to English to have a nice neutral "it" for such dilemmas?

  • Comment number 27.

    Facts - There is riots in China
    There are a lot of attack by rioters
    The police came in to break the riot
    There are a lot of arrest

    Chinese website probably has : There is a major riot attacking and killing people. The police came in fast to break up the violent protest and arrest a lot of people. There is suspicion that the riot are incit by terror groups with external agenda.

    BBC probably has : There is a major protest in china. The police came in hard to break up the protestor and arrest many. There is a lot of death, with the protest claiming the police to have cause the peaceful protest to turn violent. Mr/ Mrs XXXX a local in western country claim that the people are constant in oppression by the China government and protest is a peaceful march to tell the government, until the china government start to apply extreme pressure on the protest. I blame the china government for the death caused.

    This is the power of edtior and how I view all news outlet. The truth is out there, however, all have different agenda.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Mr. StevenJMUK,

    You hit the nail right on. And this is something I am very annoyed by BBC. As they are feeding fuel to fire to the people that want an enemy. Resulting in ties that might have mend to continue to sour. This causes tension and war, which is detrimental to general public.

    If only BBC stick to reporting the facts. Britian might have become the best partner of Russia, China and EU and not only US.

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with Wil_Ng (#28)

    Surely the solution to all of this, and the solution to many other problems caused by the BBC, is that it simply sticks to factual reporting.

    That means

    - it doesn’t have an angle and it stops looking for new angles
    - it stops being judgemental in its reporting
    - it stops campaigning
    - it doesn’t take up about 30% of news output with its own opinions, thus censoring real facts and events
    - it doesn’t use phrases like 'This year's talks are vital as they aim to produce a successor to the Kyoto Climate Protocol on global warming' (dated 21st September 2009, BBC News Website)

    This phrase may be the majority view; it may right morale position to take; however it is the BBC’s opinion and should not appear in a news report as it did today

    In short, the BBC should adhere to its own editorial guidelines.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think the BBC has some excellent journalists, such as Robin Lustig and Nick Robinson. However, the BBC should not try to be a newspaper, magazine or a blog. I believe that these correspondents should have no place at the BBC, well certainly not on the news

    What is more, the BBC is treading on the toes of commercial enterprises and, of course, bloggers. The mad thing is that by presenting facts in as neutral way as possible the BBC will carve out a role for itself as a beacon of truth. It will also leave the way open for others in the industry to take their place instead of being squeezed out. If the BBC carries on muscling into other people’s territory it will have its wings clipped. The best way for the BBC to survive in the long term is to provide all of us with unquestionable, triple checked facts with no hint of an angle.

    As soon as it takes an angle or pushes an opinion, as it does many times in any given hour, the BBC lays itself open to accusations of bias.

    If the BBC was an independent entity then it should be allowed to do what it wants. However, while it is funded by the public I reckon it has a duty to stick to its own editorial guidelines and present facts unfettered by any opinion.

    I don’t see why the BBC feels it has the right to colour news stories with this or that angle. No other publicly funded body apart from the government takes it upon itself to regularly pass comments about what MPs are up to or what, for that matter, Russia or Iran or Pakistan are up to. The NHS doesn’t issue regular commentaries about the state of Iraqi politics or on how President Obama is faring, nor does the police. So why does the BBC?

    This leads me back to Wil_Ng. The BBC often gets away with political interference in the UK. However when it tries the same thing abroad it can lead to a much more ferocious reaction. The BBC has damaged our democracy in the UK and that is our fault for putting up with it (this is why, in my opinion, all major parties are BBC-friendly identikits and voters have lost real choice). However, when BBC reports are fed back to trouble spots after having been through the BBC 'angle' machine, this can cause serious trouble and damage our relations with other countries.

  • Comment number 30.

    The primary reason for citizen journalists, is to expose all the corruption in both government, and business, and to try to restore some ethics and decency in both.

    It is the "voice of the people", which largely goes unheard.

  • Comment number 31.

    Well since most "professional" journalism seems to consist of being sent a "report" by a government department, Quango or government funded Fakecharity & somewhat rewriting it (check it out & see) I doubt if many bloggers will feel the need to try to live down to such standards.

  • Comment number 32.

    Citizen journalism is rich people in the media hoping to cream free content from nosey parkers and gore seekers and put the real journalist out of work.
    Then they have the audacity to complain when the news papers go bust because it's no better than the free parish magazines and he advertisers pull out of TV.
    You reap what you sew, publish free submission work and people will expect to watch and read it for free.
    What next, citizen heart surgeons....

  • Comment number 33.

    BBC News, I applaud you for offering such a resource. I think it is desperately needed and hope other news organizations follow your lead. I don't think this would hinder anyone from expressing their opinion, but would help citizen journalist monitor themselves. Thanks

  • Comment number 34.

    #23 SteveJMUK

    Well said.

    You have written a true piece of citizen's journalism. Well done.

    It puts 'real' journalism to shame. It shows up the sham.

  • Comment number 35.

    How can the BBC set itself up as the standard?
    It can't be denied that the BBC has some excellent journalists and commentators, but many appear to be half-literate, many are bewilderingly ignorant of the subject they are reporting and many seem to be mainly interested in the furtherance of their own celebrity.
    Until you get back on the rails and start once again to practice what you preach, I'm afraid that most 'citizen journalists' are going to pay much attention to you.

  • Comment number 36.

    In the present row about Baroness Scotland, has someone noticed that if as she says she checked all her housekeepers documents, why didn't the Tongolese woman's illegality show up? what is the point of having such a stringent system is it doesn't work! and will other employers face discipline should they fail to correctly apply information that they wont have access to anyway!
    How can someone, other than the attorney general, know how to get this sort of legal information in the best and quickest way?

  • Comment number 37.

    Yesterday the Breakfast show criticised the police for not investigating rape and getting rape cases to court …this is because for the past 10 years CID offices have lost officers and are desperately understaffed and dangerously devalued and disillusioned, some offices are running as much as 60% under strength.

    The CPS runs on performance figures and will not take on a case that may not be successful at court ..rape cases are notoriously difficult to achieve a conviction and so are rarely take on...

    Officers have and are still being recruited to neighbourhood teams to run clubs attend meetings and do other social service type jobs ..the are high visibility ..They are not investigators and have no training in investigation they deal with dog fouling, parking, graffiti and youth clubs .they don’t work nights they don’t deal with the fall out from pubs and clubs they specialise very well in antisocial behaviour.

    But when a young girl gets raped, a student gets murdered or there is a serious assault the cid office is short staffed and unable to cope. When a nurse says that things are going wrong in an old peoples home and several old people may have died unnecessarily the cid office has no resources to look at the case. what do we as a society want ?


  • Comment number 38.

    The biggest issue facing any news source, whether it be a broadcaster, a newspaper, a magazine or a blogger, is authority. Have I the evidence to back my claims? Is my quote accurate? Is the nature of the source fully explained and identified? And so on.

    Although I would not wish to see a news organ turn into an encyclopaedia, with a full bibliography of references for every claim and counter claim, where a news organisation has great influence over opinion, or is trying to exert opinion, then I believe there is a responsibility to justify what is printed.

    There are various stock phrases used commonly on this site, on the BBC broadcasts and by other news organisations which, to my mind, break every rule of responsible journalism:

    "A senior source at RBS dismissed the comment..." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8023806.stm%29

    Without naming the source, how can we be certain they are senior, from RBS, or whether this is true at all?

    "growing body of opinion..." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8060896.stm%29

    It is just wrong to suggest that large numbers are against something, or there is a growing group of people, or other similar statements without actually saying who they are.

    Who is who? "The 72-year-old lifelong smoker is supporting moves by a cross-party group of MPs to amend the UK smoking laws." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8265156.stm%29

    It sounds like a major initiative against the smoking ban, but in fact a little digging shows that the campaign group referred to as a cross party group of MPs is in fact a campaign supported by Forest, the Tobacco Industry financed campaign group.

    The identity and alliances of people quoted as having an authoritative opinion should be made clear. Think Tanks often have an agenda, experts can be isolated from their colleagues and MPs voting records may say a lot about them. For instance, in the same article above, MP Greg Knight is quoted. His record shows he has no expertise in the pub trade, and has a very right wing voting record (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/greg_knight/east_yorkshire - that may change how people view his opinion.


    I believe large news organisations, especially ones publicly funded, have a duty to not use ambiguity and unsupported claims to sell through a story. I, like many others, I suspect, don't have a great knowledge of who is being quoted, and cannot judge their words without some help. I don't know if a think tank is left wing or right wing. And I am not happy about taking a journalist on trust when he wont name the source of a headline making quote.

    Before an article is published, any claims should be challenged:

    Prove it.
    Justify it.
    Support it with evidence.

    Honest reporting should NOT rely on readers believing a journalist is honest - it should rely on evidence.

    So many stories are about politics and will, through the information they offer, effect the way we vote and therefore who runs our country. This is too important for bits of rumour, unattributed quotes, useless experts or unsubstantiated generalisations.


  • Comment number 39.

    What I look for: Authenticity.

    “Is it okay for a blogger to reveal that his local MP is having an affair because it's "common knowledge", or claim that a local car firm is shifting stolen cars because he's got a friend in the police, who's involved in the investigation?”
    The laws of libel and copyright apply to the web as well as to print.

    However the information in the first situation could be passed onto a media outlet for follow up; in the second it could be passed onto the police.

    “But what about the principles of good citizen journalism? What would a good citizen journalist do if she came across someone receiving medical treatment in the middle of Trafalgar Square? Would she start filming them?
    Know your legal rights. (As an ammeter photographer I’d only take a photo if I thought it was really newsworthy, not out of voyeurism.)

    What would she do if she were asked to stop?
    Depends on who asks and why?

    “Should a community website publish images of 10-year-old children - who could clearly be identified - causing criminal damage on a local housing estate?”

    They could. Again know your legal rights; street photography, even of people is legal – but also be aware of the ‘comeback’ potential (consequences) if the photographer/website administrator is known to them.

    However, like a many photographers nowadays, as a general rule I don’t point a camera at children. I will take pictures of adults if they’re in a scene, but not children.

    A lot of the concerns about photographs are already being discussed by those involved in street photography; it may be worth also exploring these discussions further. e.g.
    http://www.urban75.org/photos/photographers-rights-and-the-law.html
    http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/
    http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/law/090602intrusive.shtml
    http://photocritic.org/street-photography-and-the-law/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/photoblog/2009/08/im_a_photographer.html
    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1013&message=32968014
    http://www.jameslomax.com/words/1225/concerns-of-street-photography-reading-the-image

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 41.

    Sounds like a positive development, and many of us will judge the proof of the pudding by studying what's made available rather than second guessing!

    As a blogger, I'm not alone in learning some things the hard way - particularly when it comes to being challenged by well-paid press officers over stories or photographs they like. And while on a few occasions something that I've blogged about has been picked up by the main stream media, it's always interesting to see what they do with it, the different angles they take, the time they can invest in peeling back more layers to find further depth to a story or event I've only begun to scratch the surface of.

    So go on ... impress us with this new resource!

  • Comment number 42.

    Speaking your opinion is using your right to free expression. If we can only say what others want to hear, are we really speaking at all?

  • Comment number 43.

    Pondering further on this, I come to various influences that can shape reporting.

    Consequences. Responsibilities. Accountability.

    The law of course can be used as much as a guide as a blunt instrument, and it applies, at least in theory, equally to each individual.

    But much is in the zone of convention, and poorly policed standards.

    Hence a blogger can be a tad 'Wild West', to be sure.

    But then, are the mainstream much different?

    It kind of still boils down to money and/or career.

    And as our very own national broadcaster has shown... often... you need to be a very naughty person indeed to be deprived of pay, perks and pension. Plus the fines, ironically, seem to more often be uniquely funded by those who have been transgressed against. Hardly the greatest incentives to professional rectitude, especially in a culture that rewards ratings over ethics.

    Still not sure where one will find out more about this new resource, or when, though.

    Though quite a lot of heat around the what, how and why. Apt, really.

    ps: Intrigued by an 'update' on 28 October, when it's currently 28 Sept.

  • Comment number 44.

    Very much in the news is the story of the mother and daughter under threat from feral youths for so long their lives were tragically ended, and I wonder just how a "citizen's reporting network" would have dealt with this. Would it have allowed identification of the youths, the police and the council workers, or would an IPCC investigation, council disciplinary process and periods of official inactivity lead to the same outcome?

    We have moved so far from instant retribution for obvious misdemeanour to have created a situation where bad news travels fast, but help doesn't move at all. Most people will not get involved because they know they will be put through the same painful process as the victims, or worse, will become a part of a "crime" themselves.

    With common sense so far out of the picture it is pompous and arrogant of politicians like Alan Johnson to say "we can all feel their despair". I think not. So does official news create its own cases like this, involved only when the story is so "big" that it earns the journalists a "gold star"?

    Personally I wish there were places where people can fearlessly write about their "brushes" with officialdom, so called customer service, public and private company bureaucracy, secrecy, inaccessibility, and dishonesty. It is time the playing field was levelled out or even ever so slightly tilted toward the concerned citizen. It is time that people took back control of what their money is supposed to do.

  • Comment number 45.

    (Apologies - this paragraph originally read "October" where it should have been "September".)

    Welcome:)

    Now, what have we here....

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/basheerakhan/100003694/downing-street-smacks-down-citizen-journalism/

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/alexsingleton/100011759/downing-street-wont-tell-us-if-taking-a-photograph-is-legal/

    The guvmint has decided to hide behind vague legislation because it hasn't a clue but likes the notion of cracking down at whim if cornered.

    I am sure the BBC would not be supportive.

  • Comment number 46.

    We are not citizens we are subjects now I know Brown talks about us being citizens and New World Order and how he will save us all from his mistakes but those who write to the media and find stories for you are subjects till the monarchy goes the Queen know what she does but not what her subjects do understand?

  • Comment number 47.

    So really the question should be this " ARE YOU AFTER A CITIZEN JOURNALIST OR A CITIZEN REPORTER ?
    There is a defining line between the two a jounalist makes an event a story ,a complete package if you like to be commented on or used after the event.
    A Reporter, reports what he sees as he sees it, ie. man walks into bank shoots clerk end of report:
    because that's what he saw, He does not go into details of how many times the bank has been robbed or the response time of the local
    police that is left upto the journalist to pad out the story.
    Their are two different hats to wear which is the one you want?
    REPORTER or JOURNALIST ?

  • Comment number 48.

    Why are Journalists on the BBC not taking an independent view and only conforms to the diktat of the UK Govt? For example when Balir said that Dr. Kelly was irresponsible to leak out the true investigation reports regarding WMDs in Iraq, no Journalist of BBC ever questioned the Govt's blackening of poor Dr. Kelly's reports such that he felt betrayed by the upholders of ivestigative jounalism forcing him to take his own life. But even this story of taking his own life is suspect knowing that if Dr. Kelly had a chance to reveal all at any defense hearing in a court of law, the government (as we now know in hindsight) would be found guilty for forcing BIG lies on the public in support of its goal in taking the nation into confidence in support of the US launch of an illegal war on Iraq for immense profits to the War industry in the US and other allied countries.

 

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