Big Issue vendors to become smartphone reporters

Homeless Big Issue sellers are to be equipped with smartphones so that they can begin acting as news gatherers, the charity has said.

The vendors will be encouraged to blog and use social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook to capture and upload images and audio, according to Big Issue founder John Bird.

‘Big Issue vendors stand on streets up and down the country come rain or shine, hence they are uniquely connected to their local area,’said Bird.

‘We want them to become the eyes and ears of their neighbourhoods, offering a unique perspective and simultaneously developing the skills which will get them off the streets.’

A statement from the Big Issue said: ‘Vendors have already taken the first step away from homelessness by deciding to sell the magazine, which they buy for £1 and sell to the public for £2, keeping the difference.

‘Producing digital content will enable them to engage with a new and wider customer base, as well as equipping them with a number of key skills.”

A spokesman for the Big Issue said they are still finalising details about where the content will appear. They said that they are aiming for all of the magazine’s 2,900 vendors to be equipped with smartphones and declined to comment on the brand of device, saying that they were in talks with a corporate partner.

The news comes after the BBC’s head of newsgathering Fran Unsworth said that the BBC is equipping its journalists with smartphones – including iPhones – to enable them to record audio, video and stills.

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