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News channels want you!

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While some media outlets feel threatened by citizen journalists taking and disseminating their own newsworthy footage, others are embracing the technologies to make their story reporting a richer experience. CNN’s iReport, Al-Jazeera’s Sharek portal, and NBC’s latest venture to collect amateur videos are just a few.
Journalists are not always at the right place at the right time. Particularly in cases like Libya or Syria, where reporters struggled to get in, media rely on ordinary citizens who are on the scene to record any action from their smartphone.
It is then up to the professionals to sift through the content, decide what’s useable and reliable and add context for their audience.
NBC is the latest channel to develop a system of collecting amateur videos. Chief digital officer for NBC News, Vivian Schiller, announced the acquisition of startup Stringwire from recent New York University graduate, Phil Groman, who developed it while in the Interactive Telecommunications Program.
How Stringwire works: it sifts through Twitter messages of those who witness a news event and sends a Twitter post to them, asking them to click a link and point their camera at what they are seeing. The service can start streaming live video to NBC without any special app.
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The Qatar- based broadcaster Al Jazeera launched Sharek (meaning “to share”) in 2007, which was a huge help in broadcasting first-person views of the Arab Spring since 2010. 
 
They set the bar even higher when they redesigned the portal in 2012 by adding a function that accredits regular contributors whose videos will post without moderation once they have attained a trusted status.
 
In 2011, Al Jazeera's head of social media, Riyaad Minty, said that during the Arab Spring Sharek the channel was receiving up to 1,600 videos a day, which prompted the broadcaster to work on building its resources to be able to deal with and verify this material.
 
"Everything that comes in gets screened by someone from my team," says Minty. "They'll go through it and first try and verify the location- that it was, in fact, where the people said it is. They'll listen to accents. They will then decide whether or not it's too gruesome to post online. If it's too gruesome, it gets archived. If it's not too gruesome, it will be posted on the website. Our team goes through it to decide if they want to use it on TV, then to start getting a lot more context around it.”
 
Citizens can submit videos through email or the smartphone apps the agency has created. For those with less advanced phones, Al-Jazeera also accepts reports through SMS. Only about 10% to 15% of uploaded video makes it to the Al-Jazeera website.
 
Content can be viewed in English, Arabic, Serbo-Croat, Turkish and Swahili, which makes it more accessible than English-only channels.
 
CNN's iReport, which launched in 2006, works the same way. Viewers can submit photos, video and audio of newsworthy events directly to CNN for possible use on CNN.com and on their broadcast properties.
 
The CNN iPhone app (which, unlike the mobile site is dominated by image and not text), features an iReport section that lets users submit photos and video content from the iPhone directly to CNN.
 
The content that hasn’t been checked is marked as unvetted and not a part of the CNN approved content library until editors follow up on them.
 
The local South African context appears relatively bleak. Despite the launch of eNews Channel Africa, no step was taken to consider citizen media. Journalist Mandy De Waal says this could make eNCA vulnerable to challenge as TV becomes more convergent, and ‘news everywhere’ eats into their market.

Image via engadget.com