It’s official – I’m the new Editor in Chief of Citizenside.
There’s even a press release, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Citizenside is a Paris-based startup that has become one of the world’s largest citizen journalism agencies. The concept is simple: now that many people carry a phone capable of taking photos and filming videos, it’s obvious that ordinary people will be the first ones on the scene in the case of a big news event. This crowd of technically enabled roving reporters represents a huge resource for journalism.
As proven by the epic images from 7/7 and the Hudson river plane crash, news events are increasingly covered by the people who experience them first-hand. That’s where Citizenside comes in. Anyone can become a member and start contributing photos or video.
The site features a community-created stream of news images from around the world. If there’s a really good scoop (like with the John Galliano video now making the rounds, which was filmed by one of our contributors) Citizenside sells the content on to our network of media contacts.
But what you see on the homepage isn’t just random uploads like on YouTube. We can verify and confirm everything that gets posted with a sophisticated back office system. There’s also a points and levelling-up game dynamic built into the community, which we’ll be putting a lot of energy into developing further. More on that later.
Citizens, News, Revolution
It’s an exciting time to be starting with Citizenside. So-called ‘amateur’ content is increasingly important to mainstream media. Watch any news report from what’s happening in Libya or Egypt right now, and you’ll see plenty of mobile phone footage.
As Peter Beaumont wrote in the Guardian, “The barricades today do not bristle with bayonets and rifles, but with phones.”
There has been another critical factor at work that has ensured that social media has maintained a high profile in these revolutions. That is the strong reliance that mainstream media such as the Doha-based television network Al Jazeera has had to place on material smuggled out via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This arrangement means that videos have often been broadcast back in to the country of origin – when Al Jazeera has managed to avoid having its signal blocked.
No matter how the pictures come out, news has a vital role to play in any political situation, a fact only made more obvious in times like those we’re seeing in North Africa and the Middle East now. And increasingly, people on the street are the ones best placed to generate the best, most informative content. Whatever you think of the role of Facebook and Twitter in changing governments, the flow of information from the people is essential. As Charlie Beckett pointed out:
the outside view matters in these situations. Any support, tacit or otherwise, for dictators like Gadaffi depends in part on global public opinion. Instead of the so-called CNN effect, we now have the Al Jazeera or YouTube Effect.
Whether the reports, pictures and information come from trained, professional journalists or ordinary witnesses with mobile phones seems less and less relevant. Personally, I’d take the raw video from a person on the streets of Tripoli over the word of a correspondent at the border hundreds of kilometers away any day.
The future of journalism is bright. It belongs to all of us, and I think Citizenside will be a big part of it.
This is going to be fun.