Friday, October 9, 2009

I-report, U-Report, We all Report?

I have noticed a theme throughout class regarding the trend towards consumers becoming producers within media industry. We have discussed blogging, the ability to leave comments on news websites, and the proliferation of independent (or pundit, if you prefer) citizen journalists. The class has always moved to this discussion each week in various ways, and the essay in the IC Reader by Mark Deuze, "Convergence Culture in the Creative Industries" really elaborated what we have been focusing on in class.
Deuze states (as defined by Jenkins) that convergence culture is "both a top-down corporate driven process and a bottom up consumer-driven process". He then summarizes the two different approaches to this new form of convergence culture. First, this new form of media consumption allows us, the consumers, to exercise direct control over what we watch, what we tune out, and what we absorb from the media. As an example, I prefer to watch Fox News over CNN. Also within Fox News, I pay specific attention to certain journalists or hosts over others - but when a commenter is on that I do not agree with or can tolerate listening too, I aptly mute the discussion. In this way, I am exercising complete control over what I consume through the media. The second approach Deuze analyzes is the "collaborative media", in which we each participate in media production and consumption. A prime example of this is blogging - even for this class. We are creating our own media products and we enable our peers to in a sense, be co-producers with us - we allow their comments (or criticisms) and may edit our post to reflect others ideas. This form of collaborative media is prevalent in even today's major news outlets - Fox News and CNN. brands itself as "unedited, unfiltered, news". On this website, citizen journalists can post their own stories. These reports are unedited (the site claims "that means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post") stories to appear on CNN, they must be fully vetted and fact checked by CNN employees. Last month, 724 and last month over 378, 547 were posted. was picked up by CNN. However, CNN exercises final editorial control over the posts by citizen journalists, bringing to light questions about how involved the author is in the final process and if it is really collaborative media. For IReportIReport stories appeared on CNN. As always though, there is fine print to be read. Before submitting an IReport story to CNN, the user must read and agree to the terms of use and in there is a hidden provision: "CNN has the right to edit and/or alter any submission. CNN reserves the right not to use the material you submit at all and/or as little of the material as it hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in any of their programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised". In summary, you hand over all rights to your personal work to CNN.
Fox News has a similar form of citizen journalism - UReport. Users can upload pictures and videos for submission to Fox News. UReports terms of use are similar to CNN's "The Site may provide you with the chance to upload or provide messages, photos, videos, clips, ideas, feedback, comments or other content (“Content”). You understand and agree that FOX has the right in its sole discretion, but not the obligation, to monitor, edit, and remove any posted Content, and assumes no liability for any such Content". However, when it comes to posting comments on stories Fox does not assume editorial content, "However, FOX accepts no responsibility whatsoever in connection with or arising from such Messages".
Both IReport and UReport have dramatically increased the impact of citizen journalism. Without these forms of media interaction, video from places such as Iran and other state controlled media outlets may not be seen around the world. The original submission of these writings, pictures, and videos is citizen journalism in its truest form. But before these can be published by CNN or Fox News, the news outlets exercise complete content control - vetting, fact checking, and editing the submissions. Is this then true collaborative media if an outsider has control over the final content? Deuze does an excellent job of summarizing these tensions by explaining, "the same communication technologies that enable interactivity and participation are wielded to foster the entrenchment and growth of a global corporate media system that can be said to be anything but transparent, interactive, or participatory".

1 comment:

  1. I'm really torn about the idea of so-called "citizen journalism". I think it can be a great resource in situations such as the Iranian protests when there was a crackdown on all regular journalists, it still presents many problems. CNN and Fox seem to have circumvented the largest issue, that is the reliability of citizen journalist articles, through fact checking, etc., but how does that make the citizen bloggers, tweeters, or whatever, different from those channels' own reporters? Since they don't have to pay these on the street eyewitnesses what does that mean for the fate of regular journalists? Will their jobs eventually be (largely) replaced by these free sources of information (when they already have very low salaries and jobs that are in jeopardy anyway)? I'm not sure how to find a balance between these two, as it seems that citizen journalism is here to stay (which is not necessarily a bad thing, with the proliferation of corporate owned news media outlets), but I do worry that citizen journalists will crowd out the career journalists, which I think would be a great loss to society.