The BBC has long been leading the way in user-generated content, using photos and videos from the public in its reporting. It has just launched two new participatory journalism initiatives.
One is the appointment of an Interactive Reporter, Siobhan Courtney. On the BBC Editors blog, Matthew Eltringham, explains her “beat is simply all the content you’ve been sending in to us.”
The appointment is welcomed but it is simply newsgathering by another name. The journalist retains the traditional role of the gate-keeper.
CBC in British Columbia has a similar project, called Go Public, with reporter Kathy Tomlinson investigating story tips sent in by the public.
But the BBC’s other initiative is far more innovative. For the US presidential debates, it has opened channels on video services Qik, 12Seconds and Phreadz. Some of the videos were subsequently edited and posted on the BBC News website.
The purpose, explains Eltringham, is “to join in conversations wherever they were happening rather than expect people to come to us and host them on the BBC’s platforms.”
This is a major change in the BBC’s approach to user-generated content. It signals a shift away from the idea that the BBC should host the conversation.
Instead it reflects an acknowledgment that the conversation is taking place all over the web and the BBC’s role is as an enabler.