The future of local news gathering in action

On Saturday morning Sharon and I walked to the City Market Downtown, as we often do on the weekends. Along the way, near 107th Street and 102nd Avenue, we came upon a parade of firefighters. I immediately took out my camera to snap some photos, and also used my BlackBerry to post one to Twitter via TwitPic. We followed them up the street until they turned toward Jasper Avenue, taking a few more pictures. They were a somber group, so we assumed it was a memorial march of some kind, but we didn’t know the details.

Firefighters remember Station Captain Al HarrisFirefighters remember Station Captain Al Harris

For the next couple hours, I sent BlackBerry messages back and forth with Brittney at iNews880. She had seen my TwitPic, and wanted to write a story about the march. I always tell her she can use my photos, but she asks anyway which is nice. Brittney and her team figured out what the march was for, wrote the story, and posted it with my TwitPic. When I got home, I uploaded the rest of my photos and they added them to the story.

That’s the future of news gathering in action.

Now I realize that iNews880 and some other media organizations regularly use photos from contributors but I think what’s significant here is that the story started with the photo. Would they have written about it had I not posted a TwitPic? Maybe, maybe not. In this case they saw the photo, tracked down what it was about, and were able to produce a story.

Here’s a quote you might have heard:

In journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right. – Ellen Goodman

In this case, I got it first and iNews880 got it right. Note that doesn’t mean that I got it wrong and iNews880 was way behind. We simply worked together to make the story happen. This is the kind of news gathering that can scale. So many of us walk around with mobile Internet devices, always ready to post a message or a photo.

What comes next? Aggregation, of course.

11 thoughts on “The future of local news gathering in action

  1. Thank you Mack, this is a positive look at how easy it is for the public and traditional media organizations to work hand-in-hand.

    News organizations are regularly prompted to follow up and create stories based on input, video, pictures or ideas from the public. This happens more often than most people probably realize.

    Social media and mobile Internet devices are simply tools that allow people to more easily share story elements.

    Nothing beats the interaction between the public and news organizations…nothing.

    It’s the constant flow of communication back and forth that breathes life into the news and ensures that the giant media machines stay in touch with the people that they serve.

    What is the real “value” of the pictures and the story Britney created compared to “breaking news” on Michael Jackson? Plenty, this was local.

    At the end of the day, regardless of all the news and information available online, on-air or in-print – nobody knows local news like the locals (and that includes the people working in local media).

  2. Mantra for news “Do What you do Best, Link to the Rest”, Jeff Jarvis Buzz Machine.com

    Understanding is not their news is the big change corporate news companies need to learn. Till now news has been about the package, and copyright of the package to protect the corporate brand. That’s why news at the Edmonton Journal remains locked down behind pay walls.

    Now everyone can package and publish. By the time ‘they’ package and publish the news, on any platform, it isn’t news any more. By then, it requires what pro journalists do best. Context,analysis adding value to the conversation.

    When corporate media understand there is revenue to earn by facilitation and adding value, then the current resistance to collaboration will diminish.

    Locally, we have not reached that place, yet. We’ll know we have, when a corporate media company creates a citizen journalism, platform.

  3. I hope we expect more of journalism than just “news gathering.” Social networking means that beat reporters are no longer writing the first draft of history. However, good journalists can provide a level of depth, context and insight that the citizen with a smart phone is unable to match.
    Many local television stations and newspapers across North America are on the verge of extinction. They can’t seem to find their place within the new media landscape. Some of that is generational. The corporate leadership doesn’t get it, and the bright young things who could help are the first to be cut as part of each downsizing cycle.
    But the good things journalists do still need to be done. Blogging and tweeting are not substitutes for investigation. Aggregation doesn’t pay the salaries of people who connect with sources to uncover information which, unlike fire fighters on parade, government officials would prefer not to be published.
    Most newsrooms are shrinking. The entire fourth floor of the Journal Building is empty. Although I don’t care about the rise and fall of the Asper family as media barons, the loss of so many journalists, I’m sure, has been bad for Edmonton.

  4. Christopher – I think if you read through my other posts on this topic, you’ll find we’re in agreement. I think the opportunity for newspapers and other media outlets is to provide context and analysis, something that quite often is sorely lacking at the moment.

    They shouldn’t be wasting time with the news gathering that is being done more efficiently by others. That’s not the best way for them to add value.

    Though as crnkylttlmnky said, it works best when we work together.

  5. Cool story.

    Although folks who have been in newsrooms for a long time would probably say it’s not new that the picture started the story. Someone gets a good picture. Calls news room. Hey, do you want a picture of this car crash? (What car crash!) Newsroom starts chasing the story.

    What’s different is the unprecedented access *you* have to the newsrooms.

  6. Jodine – you’ve got a Twitter account and probably a phone with a camera on it…so I’d argue we have the *same* access to the newsrooms!

    I didn’t contact iNews880 with a cool picture…they were monitoring and picked it up themselves. That’s a significant change from the past.

  7. I agree with Christopher’s comments…if traditional media stays the way it has been, it will indeed die.

    Keep in mind that nothing changes quickly when it comes to traditional delivery methods of news and information. What has changed with newspapers, radio, TV in the last 50 years?

    If the traditional media stays traditional, it will go away.

    News outlets are changing, not only because the platforms and rules have changed, but because there is a desire to change. There is an understanding that technology is allowing news outlets to reach out and touch viewers, readers and listeners in ways not previously available.

    Major media outlets and the people who go to them for news and information are doing that because of the trust associated with the brand. The traditional role the media plays in society still holds true for many, many people out there.

    Can anyone collect and publish the news? Sure, but is anybody going to read it, let alone believe it.

    I’m not suggesting that monster news media outlets can be totally trusted and that they are the only ones people can turn to get the truth, but it seems pretty simplistic to paint a picture that local media is out of date and out of touch.

    Journalistic training, skills and instinct aren’t something that can simply be replaced by citizen journalism.

  8. Jodine, I’m in agreeance with Mack. You have a twitter account, and you’re more than welcome to send your questions, suggestions, pictures, my way. I, and other journalists in the city, try our best to keep our fingers on the proverbial pulse of the community… But it’s hard to catch everything. That’s why social media works so well! I’ve swapped Blackberry numbers with a lot of people in the twitter community at different events, and I try to keep myself as easily approachable as I can be. If you, or anyone, has a question, story, comment, or critisim, I’d love to hear it. I can’t speak for the whole Edmonton media community, but media is evolving… Before, if you wanted to report something, all you’d have to do is pick up the phone – now the possibilities are endless. Is the system perfect yet? No. We’re in a stage of media evolution… There will be hiccups, but as Mack says, the future is on it’s way.

    Mack, I was pleasantly surprised to see this blog entry! It was a pleasure working with you, as always.

    Edmontonians are lucky to have you.

    Crnkylttlmnky is absolutely correct. It’s the cooperation between us that will help evolve the industry and make it better!

  9. (Hmmm, tried to post before and it seems to have disappeared, forgive me if wind up repeating myself.) I wasn’t trying to imply exclusivity when I said *you* – I meant you as in us, we, you. Y’all. The emphasis was to indicate my sense that what has changed is ease of access to newsrooms. And clearly, newsrooms can now more easily access the “man-on-the-street.”

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