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New Breakthrough in Citizen Media or an Easy Path to Cheap Labor? I'll Report, You Decide.



Want to hand an international news network free news items while passing up the chance to make big money on exclusive footage youself?

Then, CNN's new Exchange Web site and I-Report initiative is for you!

Once upon a time, viewers who managed to get their camcorder or cellphone onto some real breaking news might actaully sell the footage to TV stations or news outlets like the big boys -- particularly if it was an image of something singular like, say, a tornado destroying a home or a freak accident.

But some news outlets are developing ways to get average joes to give them interesting news footage for free -- simultaneously selling it as a new form of citizen journalism.

Beginning today, CNN has unveiled it's I-Report intiative, which is basically an area of its Web site where you can upload video footage which CNN may feature on Exchange -- a catalog of user-generated material -- or even on air during a broadcast.

It's the kind of intiative you expect, given the popularity of user-generated media sites such as YouTube and MySpace. But the difference between those sites and this is that any material you provide to CNN will be vetted and edited to their liking, not yours -- it's an odd twisting of the D.I.Y. ethic that turns so-called citizen journalism into a mechanism for making the general public an unpaid extension of the channel's reporting staff.

The truth is lodged in this excerpt from the "Terms of use" you automatically agree to when you send in material: By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN 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 CNN's programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.

This is CNN?

Separated at Birth?

It's not that we're enjoying seeing Mel Gibson's gibbering anti-semitism revealed to all the world by his own, inebriated mouth. Or that the Los Angeles Sheriffs department's ham-handed attempt to protect the star have only made the scandal that much more savory (okay, maybe we're digging that a little).

What's amazing about the Mel Gibson DUI scandal is two things: First, the way it has upgraded the reputation of the Web site which broke the news, Previously known for celebrity sludge like confronting Paris Hilton about the crude stuff their readers said about her on their web site (a sample: "Paris is like a fart in a mitten; you know it's there, you can't stand it, but you can't get rid of it."), TMZ has made Gibsongate its own.

It wasn't the that had four pages of the original, censored police report on Gibson's nuttiness (They're still featuring the scathing memo from Morgan Creek Productions CEO James Robinson excoriating Lindsay Lohan for blowing off production days during her latest movie; how last week is that?). It was TMZ, which now also has Gibson's eerily serene mug shot posted.

I said two things earlier, because the final shoe has yet to fall. According to TMZ, there is an audiotape of Gibson's entire, Jew-hating diatribe and videotape of his tantrum at the sheriff's department headquarters. So I'm betting two more things: The tabloids have a six-figure bounty waiting for whichever custodian, secretary or deputy has the stones to get them the tape. And they have another six figures going to attorneys who will argue such evidence is a public record, right along with the original arrest report.

It will take that audiotape to puncture Gibson's rep with the industry, which loves the money he makes them, and fans -- who tend to give their idols lots of leeway. Short of real audio or visual evidence of his bigotry, this will fade sooner than Shannen Doherty's latest marriage.


NYT has cool story on the speed of the scandal erupting. I  must admit, I've gotten so used to the hyper-fast  world of celebrity news, I barely registered that the Mel thing exploded in a couple of days.  NYT and L.A. Times notes Mel's holocaust drama with ABC is dead, though his next wild-eyed movie, Apocalypto, is not. And HuffPost's Eat the Press posted a Separated at Birth comparison between Mel and Saddam at exactly the same time I did last night. Great (or not-so-great) minds....


To HuffPost's Harry Shearer for linking to my Saturday story about news coverage of Lebanon (maybe, someday, he'll actually let me interview him about his media crit work!); Brian over at TVNewser also showed me some love...And all this speculation over Castro's health reminds me of my own earlier post about rumors of his death -- perhaps we all were further ahead of the curve than we realized....

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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