Filtering bad apples in citizen journalism

Apple’s stock took a major hit this morning after a phony report of Steve Jobs having a heart attack was posted to CNN’s citizen journalism site, iReport. After bloggers confirmed it was false, the report was yanked from iReport, and the stock bounced back.

Techcrunch offered some interesting observations on the morning’s events:

Rather than fight the rise of citizen journalism, CNN decided to try to co-opt it by launching iReport. CNN’s iReport site lets anyone put up posts and videos about the news. Its tagline is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.” Sometimes these reports get on CNN proper (presumably, after being vetted).

But as this incident shows even the an unvetted report carries more weight than if it had appeared on Twitter or a random blog because it is on a CNN site. And that may be purely because it gets distributed more broadly. It could also be because people tend to believe what they read on CNN-branded sites.

Let’s not let one bad apple ruin the whole experiment, though. Obviously, there are a lot of smart people out there who can contribute to general news gathering. There needs to be a better truth filter on iReport and other sites that allow the anonymous reporting of news. A better reputation system for contributors would help. They shouldbe encouraged to use their real names. And maybe a bigger disclaimer needs to be placed up top saying: “Read At Your Own Risk.”


2 Responses to “Filtering bad apples in citizen journalism”

  1. 1 Caitlin W October 4, 2008 at 8:28 am

    I had read somewhere about this!! This is definitely the scary side of citizen journalism, I guess. But I think, if citizens are asking for more transparency from news agencies, perhaps citizen journalists should step up to the plate in the same way. (I’m not entirely sure how accounts with iReport work, but from the above story it sounds like it’s a pretty anonymous process.) That might inhibit people from posting about important stories, I guess, but it’s what professional journalists have to deal with, so I think it’s fair to extend transparency. I dunno, what does everyone else think?

  2. 2 Samantha G. October 7, 2008 at 12:45 am

    When I heard about this on NPR, I immediately thought of citizen journalism and all the elements and pros and cons we have been discussing this semester. It made me realize how relevant this class is and the power of digital media.

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