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The false report about Steve Jobs that briefly surfaced on CNN’s iReport site has prompted a wave of discussion on the “failings” of citizen journalism.
These reports suggesting the imminent death of citizen journalism are greatly exaggerated. They miss the basic point by treating an unsubstantiated report on a unfiltered web page as if it were published by a professionally-edited news outlet.
As a CNN spokesperson told the BBC that:
iReport.com is an entirely user-generated site where the content is determined by the community. Content that does not comply with Community Guidelines will be removed. After the content in question was uploaded to iReport.com, the community brought it to our attention.
While the site may be hosted by CNN, it is clearly labelled as not part of its professional news operation.
We need to stop judging citizen media sites by the standards that we apply to established news outlets. It is like comparing apples and oranges. They are not the same and not intended to be the same. Citmedia sites tend to work on the basis of publish first, verify later.
The stupidity here lies with those who took an unsubstantive rumour and acted on the basis of it. How many of us would act on something we overheard on the bus or in a bar? The rational thing to do is to check it out, to verify the facts.
This is the value of journalism. In an age when everyone is a publisher, there is a greater need than ever for journalists to verify and authentic information, rather than leap on a rumour.