Visionaries meeting, which was held in Atlanta in mid-April, we had the
opportunity to tour CNN and to meet with Tyson Wheatley, one of the
founding editors of CNN’s I-Report initiative. This is the section of
CNN’s Web site (www.ireport.com)
where anyone over the age of 13 can upload their own photos, videos,
audios, and/or text submissions as long as that content complies with
are interested in learning how to leverage user-generated content.
Tyson told our small band of Visionaries that the team responsible for creating, piloting, and shepherding i-report.com into being has been “about 1.5 people” until very recently. Now the group has grown to about 7 employees. They’ve had strong support from CNN management from the outset.
The idea behind i-report.com is to take advantage of the power of “citizen journalism.” The people who are closest to breaking news are the ones best equipped to provide photos, videos, and first-hand accounts. CNN has long been the recipient of unsolicited videos and eyewitness reports from far-flung “journalists.” In the past, an editor would always vet the submitted material by talking to the person directly and asking questions to ensure the authenticity of the footage as well as to ensure its legality. Some of the issues that CNN cares about when vetting a submission are the following: the submission can’t contain objectionable or copyrighted material; CNN also need to be careful about where the footage was taken. Was it on public or private property? Who took the video? Only the actual eyewitness is permitted to submit material. Often, Tyson explained, in the case of really breaking news, that screening conversation takes place within minutes of receiving the material. But as the volume of user submissions has increased, it was becoming harder to manage and screen them in a timely fashion.
By creating a section of the CNN.com Web site that is devoted to collecting and featuring customers’ submissions, the CNN editors discovered it was both a good way to make it much easier for people to submit appropriate content and to make it easier for CNN to screen that content to ensure that it meets their standards.