Lessons in Citizen Journalism

Over the past year I’ve gotten few questions over and over again. And I wanted to answer them here, so that they’re all in one place for anyone who might be interested.

Did the AP buy the rights to the photo? No, they did not buy the rights.

Did you sell it to someone else? No, I actually copyrighted the photo and control the rights to them. Anyone interested in using the photo needs to have my permission.

How do you feel about the unlicensed use of the photo? It is what it is. I posted it on a public site to my 170 followers. I did not send it to CNN or FOX. I am satisfied with how everything has unfolded.  A lot of good has come of this event and I can’t get mad at something that I have no control over. When I took the photo my priority was rescuing the passengers of the plane and not selling the rights to one of the news organizations.

Lessons for citizen journalist? What would you change about the current structure of distribution?

Firstly, anyone at anytime can be a citizen journalist. You can’t prepare for it. You can only get lucky enough that you know what to do in an emergency situation. That may mean spreading the news or just being able to help the distressed people. Prepartion is the key here, as one of my favorite quotes states:

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca

If you’re a journalist, I recommend being on top of all the new tech apps. Ot at least know how to do the basic things like tweet, send an email with a photo, etc… You should not try to figure it out on the spot. A quote from Professor Sree Sreenivasant perfectly states it:

“When a plane lands in the Hudson, it’s too late to figure out Twitter” – Prof. Sree Sreenivasan (@sreenet)

The Future?

One thing that I would like to see is the protection of photos in services like TwitPic, YFrog, TweetPhoto, and others. If they implement some type of distribution avenue it could make sense in events of significance. News organization would know where to look for their info and the photographers would be compensated for their material.

I don’t like what iReport and others are doing. They are getting people to send their property to them and they get nothing back, at best a credit when they show it on air. I think this is putting professional photographers out of jobs and devaluing the craft of photography.

Does the business model work?

The downfall of citizen powered services like Scoopt  was the fact that the likely hood of someone choosing that one particular service was very low. However, majority of photos are being uploaded to about 4 photo sharing sites. If they would work out a way to distribute note worthy photos it would help citizen journalists monetize their top shots and give incentives to professional to use these sites.

I know that there is a fine line between locking photos up and having them totally open. If a middle ground can be established then we could really see a lot of value. I think that is a major obstacle but one that can be solved.

I don’t know if the numbers make sense. But after speaking to a few journalism students at Columbia. They expressed interested in a service that would be geo-location enabled and provide them with photos of small and large events that they could report on. Journalists want access to as much information as possible.

I hope this answers some questions. If you have any more, leave a comment or email me and I will get back to you.

My informal talk at Columbia Journalism School:

Related Articles:

  • Can Citizen Photo Agency Demotix Succeed Where Scoopt Failed? http://ow.ly/1gdHL
  • Twitter Can Be Vital In Covering Breaking News — A Non-Journalist Teaches Us How: http://ow.ly/1lgvp
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