You Get What You Pay For–News Version

Helluva scoop if it were only true.

The big buzz in media (all media, not just TV) is user created content. It’s free–what’s not to like?

From CNN’s iReport–“Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack. I have an insider who tells me that paramedics were called after Steve claimed to be suffering from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. My source has opted to remain anonymous, but he is quite reliable.”

Helluva scoop if it were only true. I’ll let a professional writer pick it up. This is from the Washington Post.

A false Internet report that Apple’s Steve Jobs had suffered a heart attack briefly slammed his company’s stock and raised fresh questions about the delicate relationship between traditional and new media.

The posting on — a citizen journalist site owned by Time Warner’s CNN — is the most recent incident in which a faulty online report created brief, but wrenching, confusion among investors.

Apple quickly denied the report about its chief executive, but not before its stock dropped more than 2 percent, hitting a 17-month low of $94.65. It later recovered, climbing as much as 4 percent, before closing at $97.07, down 3 percent for the day.

CNN has tried to distance itself from the iReport site and its ‘reporters’. That’s going to be tough. It’s CNN’s cred that keeps the site active. In the last month CNN used nearly 1,300 iReport submissions which encourages even more participation.

Having journalism performed by actual journalists doesn’t guarantee accuracy, but it seems to be a step in the right direction when you supervise the reporter and he/she is answerable. Citizen journalists are not. Actually, that’s not totally true as the Steve Jobs heart attack citizen journalist might be answerable to the SEC.

Last September I wrote about my upset with Fox News ‘assigning’ a story to viewers. I didn’t say it was FNC but why hide it.

[T]oday I also watched an instance of what I don’t want to see with cellphone video. I’m not going to say which cable network it was, because I can’t find anything about it on their website, and it just might be ‘freelancing’ by a producer or anchor.

The anchor showed a still from an air show, mentioned where one was taking place today, and asked for viewer video. Uh… isn’t that why they have reporters and camera crews?

I understand getting video of spot news, unanticipated events, from viewers. This is totally different. This is an assignment. I’m not even sure a business can legally ask people to work for free, can they?

Regardless, it bothers me.

It still bothers me.

2 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For–News Version”

  1. (For some reason, Rick Hancock ( ) could not post this on his own. I have added it for him. Rick is a part-time Fox 61 broadcaster and full-time academic, entrepreneur and community journalist advocate – Geoff)

    I don’t believe you and I have ever met, but I’ve watched and have admired your work during my eleven years in CT. I do however respectfully disagree with your blanket characterization of citizen journalists.

    The beauty and the bane of journalism is that it’s an imperfect craft. I think it would be a mistake to suggest that “professionals” should be the only people allowed to tell stories important to them and their communities. I’ve personally encountered great works of journalism produced by so-called amateur journalists.

    I would also argue if what we see being produced for CNN, Fox News and other national and local stations can really be called citizen journalism. Sometimes I think many of the people posting items to corporate owned media sites aren’t really interested in community journalism; but rather they are just looking to make a virtual name for themselves. The truth is most community journalists toil in the background only wanting to serve the areas where they live.

    You and I are certainly on the same page when it comes to the foul practice we’re seeing by stations — essentially getting free labor from viewers. I find that appalling and have blogged in the past that stations should pay for every bit of video they put on air.

    Does accuracy count when it comes to reporting? You bet it does. It doesn’t matter if the journalist is getting paid or not. Fact-based reporting is the cornerstone of journalism.

    I enjoy reading your blog and wish you continued success. I will be watching your forecasts in the future as I hope to get in a few more rounds of golf in this fall before I have to put the clubs away for the season.

    Rick Hancock –

  2. I like what current tv / does with viewer created content. I like the idea of citizen journalists too.


    Real journalists have editors. If CNN, for example, is going to have iReporters, there needs to be an editor functioning in the same way, with editorial rules and guidelines. Otherwise, they should limit the content to the web with a caveat.

    That being said, I think there’s a future for this, someone just needs to find a way to make it work in a more credible way.

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