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CNN Sees Citizen Journalism Pay Off



This is a revised and updated version of a post I made yesterday during the VT shooting media coverage:

Ireportvirginia Some time ago, I made fun of CNN for its I Reports intiative, encouraging average folks to submit video for inclusion with the cable channel's coverage.

But I Reports just handed CNN the scoop of the day Monday, providing compelling cell phone footage taken by a student at Virginia Tech, Jamal Albarghouti at Norris Hall as more than 20 shots rang out in the near distance. Even though you don't see anything traumatic, knowing that at least 31 people were losing their lives as this noise rang out -- killed in the largest shooting massacre inthe nation's history -- was chilling (Wolf Blitzer even asked a ballistics expert to comment, based on the footage).

By the end of the day, Albarghouti was holding a microphone and reporting from the scene as if he were a CNN employee -- which he probably should be now, given how much he helped them out. His footage was disseminated to CNN clients worldwide and appeared in just about every report Tuesday morning on the massacre.

New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley has a habit of getting the details wrong in her work, so I quote her with some care. But her story today on the media coverage quoted CNN anchor Don Lemon telling viewers and VT students: "“Stay out of harm’s way. But send us your pictures and video.”

CNN also based some reports around photos taken by the publicCarryvirginia and sent in, encouraging those on the scene to send in more reports and footage. Since the danger is past, such entreaties will only prove to be a pain for police, who will have to keep the i-reporters from screwing up the crime scene.

Expect an explosion of journalism on this crime today: CNN is sending 100 people to the site, including new morning anchor John Roberts, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Soledad O'Brien. NBC has anchor Brian Williams in town already, MSNBC anchor Tucker Carlson is en route and both Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira anchored the Today show from the site today.

ABC News will air an hour special edition of "Primetime: Massacre at Virginia Tech” at 10 p.m. today. NBC beat them by a day with it's hourlong Dateline report, which makes me wonder about those grousing that the nets didn't jump into an orgy of coverage Monday night, when police weren't releasing victims names, the shooter's name or many details about the crime. 

Tuesday morning, Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts and Chris Cuomo anchored a special edition of “Good Morning America” from Virginia Tech with full coverage of the school shooting.

But CNN may put all those professionals out of business with its I-Reports material. I just wonder what will happen when average folks wind up chasing stories in an ongoing emergency, like a hostage situation?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:38pm]


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