June 04, 2008 |
I'm only half kidding with my headline, because Reuters really does want to give out phones. After a trial of using Nokia "Mobile Journalism Toolkits" in the hands of reporters to allow reporters to cover stories on the fly, or when a regular camera crew couldn't be used, Reuters is now hoping to extend the program to its entire reporting staff as well as "citizen experts."
While I'm sure that I can hear thousands of camera crews screaming in pain at the idea, Reuters acknowledges that the quality of mobile video isn't on par with that of a traditional camera. However, the idea behind these mobile reporting set-ups is that they can cover more stories in more ways if they are able reduce their reliance on the large, traditional cameras.
While Reuters states that they have no plans to put the phones in the hands of citizen journalists (their example of a "citizen expert" is an athlete having a set-up and interviewing teammates behind the scenes), Allen Stern's experience showed how popular citizen journalism can be with traditional news organizations, with most of the major New York City news outlets requesting the footage he shot of a subway accident.
So while it's been proven that the demand is there for citizen reporting, the real question that remains with a program like Reuters is how to determine who would be selected. The expert idea is a good one, but relies on cooperation of the experts as well as planning well in advance, eliminating the possibility of immediate coverage of a breaking story.
Somehow, I'm picturing these Nokia set-ups scattered around towns in some sort of containers: "break glass for reporting of breaking news." But this program is just one more example of how things have changed in reporting.