Broadsheet vs Broadband: BBC’s Pete Clifton on citizen journalism

Speaking at last night’s Media Society event, ‘Broadsheet vs Broadband’, Pete Clifton, the BBC’s head of editorial development for multimedia journalism, shared the corporation’s views on user-generated content (UGC) and citizen journalism.

According to Clifton, asking for and receiving UGC helps the Beeb understand what news items have captured the audience’s attention and what stories out there are not being covered.

“It’s gathering in insights that the audience have that we can make sense of and then making it part of our newsgathering process,” he said.

On moderating the vast amounts of images that get sent to, Clifton stressed that verifying these was an enormous and serious task. A team working on the BBC’s UGC ‘hub’ have been trained in Photoshop fakery and verifying contributors for this very purpose, he said.

“The day we just put those up without any questioning of whether that’s right or not is the day we’re in very serious trouble.

“It’s gone through all the filters that our journalism would have gone through. It’s quite labour intensive. We’ve another arm of our newsgathering operation – it can ultimately add to the richness of what we do, but we shouldn’t take it lightly.”

Providing an outlet for this UGC and navigating a path through it is all part of the site’s wider remit as a ‘guide’ to alternative views and content online, said Clifton.

2 thoughts on “Broadsheet vs Broadband: BBC’s Pete Clifton on citizen journalism

  1. Mike

    It is inevitable that community journalism is going to be one of the fastest growing areas of journalism in the future. You’ve only got to look at the huge success of wikipedia and the 10,000s of local community sites just in the UK to realise that there is a potential army of people willing to put their own time into community journalism if only they have the means to focus that energy.

    In the traditional “hard media” of print news space had to be rationed to that which was of common interest throughout a large community. With modern “soft-media” the breakeven point for community size had dramatically downsized, and unfortunately, the journalistic community has yet to realise this.

    The idea of journalists reporting on the news is going to become far less important as more and more content comes onstream from outwith the journalistic profession. More and more the journalist will become a clearing house vetting output from others, supporting and enabling this huge army of unpaid community journalists to report on news at a much more local or much more niche level. E.g. a particular village, a particular interest, even news tailor-made for those of particular religions.

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