Yahoo Inc. Understands Trends, Opens Site To Crowdsourced News
Yahoo! Homepage (Creative Commons)
There is always more than one side to a story. While the mainstream press does its best to cover the news, sometimes it leaves something to be desired. Sometimes the voice of the people, delivered through a relatively new concept known as citizen journalism, sheds new light on a subject in a way that professional journalists cannot. Yahoo Inc. is one of the first big online news giants to catch onto this trend. Last Monday they launched what they call their "Contributor Network," a new platform for the public to publish their creative content. The press release describes this new collaborative network as "an evolution of the Associated Content platform" that "will bring contributions from more than 400,000 writers, photographers, and videographers to the Internet's largest media destinations, including Yahoo! News,Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Sports, and even the Yahoo! homepage, among many others." Citizen journalism is a debated topic, especially with the rapid development of the Internet in the last decade. The process of accessing and sharing information has changed with the growth of an online interactive playpen. User-submitted content is something that has blossomed with the advent of popular sites like Wikipedia and YouTube. It really is incredible to have fresh, human perspectives out there for everyone to absorb. Who doesn't love the idea of a free-flowing conversation that spans the entire worldwide web? While there is something beautifully democratic about writing written by the people, for the people, crowdsourcing obviously has its setbacks. In our society, being a journalist is a paid profession for a reason. Employed reporters must adhere to a journalistic standard and guidelines that inform the public can. They must avoid subjectivity and personal bias. However, The Online Journalism Review points to the unsettling fact that "traditional media have put journalism last for at least a decade, cutting
thousands of jobs and wondering why readers, viewers and listeners flee. America [has] lost a generation of professional journalists" in what has become a serious threat to self-government. To go about filling this void, the industry has looked to online news ventures. According to The Online Journalism Review, an online publication put out through the partnership of our very own Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, and the Knight Foundation, we can only find replacements in citizen journalists. "The blogosphere is no longer just for the ranters and ideologues... increasingly, straightshooting journalists cut from newsrooms join online non-profit ventures, [where] they get the opportunity to emerge as hard-news reporters of yesteryear who investigate stories traditional media now cannot or will not cover." With crowdsourcing, not only do more voices reach the general public, but the breadth of topics covered by the media is amplified. Yahoo vice president and general manager Luke Beatty told The New York Times that "tapping into Yahoo!'s vast network of users would provide broader news coverage and access to stories that are not necessarily newsy like doctors writing about medical topics or farmers about rural life. 'We're interested in covering some things that we haven't been able to cover, like high school sports," he said. He also pointed to the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting as an example of an instance during which citizen journalism made a lot of sense, because nothing can quite replace the voices of the students on campus that day. While first-hand accounts are crucial and coverage that dips into all different areas of human interest is beneficial to the public at large, with citizen journalism in the mix, there also needs to be a fine line drawn. Because we live in a world where information can be accessed simply and quickly with the click of a button or a mouse in an online search engine, a distinction needs to be made between stories written by the average Joe and a professional journalist. Since it is Yahoo Inc. that has made a move to open its doors to citizen journalism, I find myself questioning whether this line will be drawn and if a journalistic standard will be upheld. The news site's recent coverage of TV personality Bill Nye's fainting incident at USC just this last week was sloppy, reckless, and controversial. Although Yahoo has updated its article with the real story since its initial release, even its own hired staff writer at first jumped to conclusions, accusing the younger generation of tweeting rather than responding to Nye's sudden collapse on on stage. The public has since voiced outraged in reaction to the Yahoo News story, if only for its inaccuracy and naïveté for portraying the student audience in such a negative light. Although journalism that is participatory has its clear advantages, it remains to be seen whether Yahoo is ready to integrate crowdsourcing in light of events showing the company's professional reporters struggle to get a story straight. If hired staff can't report responsibly and instead rely on sensationalism, how can Yahoo Inc. expect its new "Contributor Network" to be up to par? When Carol Bartz, company CEO, says that "bringing [an] authentic perspective to Yahoo!'s most popular sites will deepen [their] engagement with the millions of people who visit [them] every day and provide new opportunities for creative contributors who participate in the Yahoo! experience," she is right. Nonetheless, citizen journalism can become a dangerous thing if it is not incorporated alongside professional journalism properly.
I'm all for more angles on more subjects, but if that means blurring the line between fact and fiction, I'm not sure crowd-powered media is worth sacrificing the integrity of the entire industry.
Yahoo launches a new platform for the public to publish their creative content.
Yahoo is creating a new collaborative network that will bring contributions from more than 400,000 writers, photographers, and videographers to the Internet's largest media destinations, including Yahoo! News,Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Sports, and even the Yahoo! homepage.