Responsibility is price of citizen journalism

Two sets of highly newsworthy images. Two prices.

The
videocamera footage of the arrest of two of the terror suspects in
Notting Hill made an opportunistic neighbour some £65,000 richer,
thanks to the joint coffers of ITV and the Daily Mail. And in
Birmingham, Central News forked out a sum with significantly fewer
noughts on the end for clips of the devastating tornado that had swept
through a suburb with such extraordinary impact.

The disparity in
the two sums is an interesting footnote, of course. But more
interesting for the industry is the fact that both recipients of
broadcasters’ and publishers’ funds were simply bystanders. They were,
to use the vogue term, “citizen journalists” who had realised that the
events they had captured through their amateur lenses were of some
value to the news business. There’ll be many more where they came from,
thanks to websites such as scoopt.com – which offers to broker deals
for alert witnesses to news events.

As the Chartered Institute of
Journalists pointed out in this magazine last week, there are ethical
and commercial dilemmas that journalists must not be slow to recognise.
Citizen journalists will undoubtedly unleash great power for our
business.

But with power, as another photojournalist – Spiderman – recognised, comes great responsibility.

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