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Can we trust citizen journalists?

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Cathy Packe | 10:26 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Over the past few weeks we've touched on a number of subjects - violence in the Xinjiang province in China, the elections in Afghanistan, issuing of mobile phones to villagers in Nigeria by BBC Hausa - that are linked together by a common thread. They all involve citizen journalists, ordinary, untrained reporters whose accounts of what is happening in their part of the world is a significant part of the BBC's reporting.

muslimboy_mobile_600.jpg

A young Muslim boy clicks photographs of the crowd with his mobile phone, after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers at Mir Alam Idgah Mosque in Hyderabad, India.

Before the days of the internet and mobile technology, these "journalists" would have been described as "eye-witnesses" whose contribution would only have reached the wider world if they had been interviewed by a professional journalist, someone working for a newspaper or broadcasting organisation, who would talk to them and then record or report what they said for the wider world.

Now that so many of us have mobile phones and internet access, we can all become reporters. For anyone making news programmes this is potentially a huge benefit - it means that whatever happens, and wherever it takes place there will (almost) always be someone on the spot to describe events.

But it can also be a danger: who is the citizen journalist accountable to? Did he or she behave responsibly in reporting the story? So I was interested to read a post on this subject on the Editors' Blog from Matthew Eltringham, who is the assistant editor of Interactivity.

He is involved in putting together some guidance about what constitutes good practice for citizen journalists - and judging by some of the comments on what he has written, this is not a subject everyone is going to agree on.

Matthew has agreed to come on to Over To You this week to talk to Rajan. So whether you feel strongly that there should be guidelines - or that the whole point of citizen journalism is the lack of rules - do get in touch.

On another subject, we've had a number of emails about "The Day that Lehman Died", the fictionalised drama about the collapse of Lehman Brothers' bank. And you can read some of the comments that have appeared more widely on the recent post from my colleague, Dave Lee. As you'll be aware, the drama is part of a wider season of programmes about the Lehman Brothers collapse, called Aftershock.

Another of the season's programmes that I've been listening to is Building out of the Recession, presented by Jonathan Glancey, a fascinating account of the relationship between architecture and the economy. I'm finding that being able to listen to a range of different programmes is giving me a wider understanding of recent economic events, but I wonder whether you all feel the same?

Cathy Packe is the Producer, Over To You

Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 10:40am GMT (11:40am BST) every Saturday.

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