Last night some of the ‘finest minds in media’ came together to debate and discuss newsgathering, citizen journalism and the future of the industry at the exclusive Frontline Club. Moderated by the BBC broadcaster Nikki Bedi, the panel included Paul Lewis (Guardian), Matthew Eltringham (BBC College of Journalism), Mark Evans (Sky News), Gavin Sheppard (Media Trust) and Ravin Sampat (Blottr). Each of the esteemed panellists provided insights into the work of their individual organisations, and how they are incorporating the increasingly important role of the citizen journalist.
Opening the event was Gavin Sheppard, marketing director of Media Trust (an event partner), who raised the issues central to the debate including the fundamental shift in the production and consumption of media, and progress with technology especially. 91% of adults use a mobile phone - lots of them smartphones – enabling a vast section of society to report and access news on the spot:
He concluded that:
Ravin Sampat, Blottr’s editor, began by explaining that the 24hr news cycle, news apps, and Twitter as a news source has marked an incredible shift in news production in the last ten years. He argued that the way people consume news has changed, we want it instantly, we want it round the clock and we want it on our mobiles.
Paul Lewis agreed, arguing that there are “a lot of people organically doing what might not seem like journalism, but is journalism”. He went on to explain
When the issue of disinformation came up, which it inevitably does regarding citizen journalism, Paul Lewis was quick to argue that this has always been a problem; and even suggested that unlike traditional media, social media has an ability to self regulate.
Sky’s home news editor Mark Evans agreed that citizen journalism is not a new phenomena, and nor are the potential problems associated with it:
Validation is another recurring question, Mark Evans again explained that these are not new questions, journalists have always had to verify stories:
After the value and importance of citizen journalism was seemingly agreed on across the panel, the discussion moved to the future of news, and the role of traditional journalism especially.
Both during the debate itself and the networking reception at the main bar that followed, a consensus was reached that citizen journalism and user generated content cannot be ignored - its value will increase and its position within the news gathering process will become more prominent.
This change in the landscape of newsgathering will not be an either/or scenario, rather traditional journalism must adjust to compliment, embrace new technology and utilise the wealth of journalism that people everywhere are doing everyday just by sharing a photo or an observation online, thus introducing a greater democratisation of the media.