Yahoo and Reuters begin experiment in 'citizen journalism'

Yahoo and Reuters have begun an ambitious new joint initiative to embrace “citizen journalists” who use digital cameras and mobile phones to capture breaking news events.
Starting last week, newsworthy photos and videos submitted from the public were distributed throughout and Yahoo News, the most popular news Web site in the United States, according to comScore MediaMetrix.

Next year, Reuters said it would begin to distribute some of the public submissions to the thousands of print, online and broadcast media outlets that subscribe to its news service. The news organization aims to eventually develop a service devoted entirely to user-submitted photographs and video.

An organization that has always bought newsworthy images from freelance news “stringers,” Reuters said it would now take the concept much further. “This is looking out and saying, ‘What if everybody in the world were my stringers?’ ” Chris Ahearn, president of the Reuters media group, told “The New York Times.”

Though other news organizations, including CNN and the BCC, are experimenting with citizen journalism, the Yahoo-Reuters effort is one of the most ambitious projects launched to date.

The companies have created a systematic way to incorporate images covering a wider range of topics into news coverage. Users upload photos and videos to a Yahoo Web page called You Witness News.

All of the submissions will appear on Flickr or a similar site for video. Editors will review the submissions and select any that are relevant to news articles.

At least in the beginning, citizen journalists will be driven by something other than money as motivation to upload their images. Yahoo and Reuters will not pay for images or recordings displayed on their sites.

Those whose photos or videos are selected for distribution to Reuters clients, however, will receive a payment. Outside of saying the payments will be “relatively small,” the news service has yet to say how much those payments will be. Ahern told the “Times” that Reuters is likely to pay more to people offering exclusive rights to images of major events. At least initially, no money is changing hands between Yahoo and Reuters, the “Times” reported. If Reuters is able to create a separate news service with the user-created material, it will split the revenue with Yahoo.

Before photographs or videos are used on the Yahoo site or distributed by Reuters, photo editors will vet them in an attempt to find fraudulent or retouched images.