Citizen Journalism from Yahoo & Reuters

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Yahoo and Reuters are hoping to turn the millions of people with digital cameras and camera phones into photojournalists, reports the NY Times.

Starting tomorrow, users will be able to upload photos and videos to a section of You Witness News. All of the submissions will appear on Flickr or a similar site for video. Reuters also plans a service devoted entirely to user-submitted photographs and video.

The Washington Post has a story today on experiments in hyper-local newspaper coverage (above) by the Fort Myers News-Press.

The Yahoo/Reuters project is among the most ambitious efforts in what has become known as citizen journalism, says the NY Times. CNN introduced its I-Reports section for user-submitted material on its site in August. Some submissions are included in its news broadcasts.

The BBC launched Your News last month, based entirely on user-generated material. It will feature stories, features and video proving most popular with viewers on TV and the internet. The BBC Blog Network also accepts text, images and video. The BBC wants to see if readers can also become reporters.

Users will not be paid for images displayed on the Yahoo and Reuters sites. But people whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters clients will receive a payment, according the NY Times.

The basic payment may be relatively small, but Reuters is likely to pay more to people offering exclusive rights to images of major events. For now, no money is changing hands between Yahoo and Reuters, but if Reuters is able to create a separate news service with the user-created material, it will split the revenue with Yahoo.

Broadcast and newspaper group owners have instigated blogs and still/video postings from users. It’s not enough says Steve Outing (right) of Editor and Publisher.

Industry analysts say broadcasters and newspapers are hemorrhaging their key demographic to the internet. One way to get them back may be with engaging user interactivity.

But bloggers and “corporate media” are like dogs and cats. Getting them together could be tricky. Perhaps some sort of “2U” unit, with an outreach program could establish guidelines, provide extended coverage, and cut costs.

Perhaps “citizen journalists”, once they attend a few training sessions, could be supplied with a $1000 production package consisting of a camera and Smartphone or a $2000 package consisting of a video camera and a laptop.

Consider Nokia’s N-93 phone ($650). It includes WiFi, microSD cards, 640×480 video and the best quality stills yet. Cingular’s 8525 is a Windows Mobile 5 phone that connects via HSDPA.

Sony’s HDR-UX1 ($1,400) records high definition on a 3″ DVD at 12 Mbps. It has four AVCHD quality settings; 12Mbps, 9Mbps, 7Mbps and 5Mbps. AVCHD has a maximum bit rate of 24Mbps which similar to the HDV (tape) bit rate of 25 Mbps.

The solid state Sanyo HD1a can record 84 minutes minutes of 720p HD video on a 4-Gigabyte SDHC card. Panasonic’s tiny 3CCD sensor HD camera records 85 minutes of 6Mbps video or 55 minutes of 9Mbps video on a 4 Gig card. The AVCHD codec uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression for bit rates that are within the payload of Mobile WiMAX – even a Ruckus WiFi Bridge.

That’s higher resolution than most broadcast television news which will be BetaMaxing 480p garbage for years to come. And forget about ATSC mobility. Broadcasters pay zero for their spectrum, and provide virtually no public service. How can it be fair (or good public policy) to subsidize schlock?

ComVu PocketCaster allows anyone to stream video from your Windows Mobile 5 device to the Web using WiFi. 3G News Mobile Studio can receive up to 6 different streams or signals at the same time from 3G phones. It can record all of the incoming signals simultaneously translating a chosen signal into a SDI output to be use as an input to a TV mixer, all in real time.

TV Free Burning Man had a crew of eight, two RVs, and a satellite truck. Footage from Sony HVR Camcorders was edited on Final Cut Pro and stored on 7 TB of Apple Xserve RAID drive arrays in another RV. Modular television.

Maybe the future for both newspapers and television stations is some kind of “citizen journalism” unit. Maybe not. Whatever happens, the internet is not going away and citizen journalism will expand with better tools and techniques. Hopefully, professional journalists will find an audience for “news done right” — and profit from it.

Come to Portland — it’s a greenfield.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, December 4th, 2006 at 11:07 am .

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