On Friday, the Associated Press announced it will be working with PublicNow.com to expand access to news as it happens. PublicNow has a membership base of more than 60,000 citizen journalists in 140 countries, while the AP remains the world's largest news gathering operation with more than 4,000 employees.
Potentially the partnership could revolutionize mass media by doing away with the boundaries between amateur and professional content production. It will be interesting to see how PublicNow contributors understand and comply with the conventions, standards, and ethics of mainstream journalistic practice.
According to Managing Editor for Multimedia Lou Ferrera:
"In the early stages of the relationship, AP bureaus will work with NowPublic communities in selected locations on ways to enhance regional news coverage. National AP news desks also may tap the network in breaking news situations where citizen contributors may capture critical information and images. NowPublic also will help AP extend its coverage of virtual communities, such as social networks and contributed content sites."
The collaboration, however, seems to signify a trend in the industry to capture competition for content in an already content-saturated media environment. A few months ago, Yahoo and Reuters joined forces by inviting citizen shutterbugs to submit images of breaking news events.
Although the merger of professional and citizen-sourced content is inevitable in an age of instant communication, the road ahead may be a bit bumpy for an industry already struggling to maintain credibility and public trust.
As images and events continue to flood into the newsrooms of AP, Reuters, and other organization from citizen-sources, what is to prevent public relations firms and the government from trying to make propaganda appear more legitimate. If I worked for a company that wanted to get on the news wires to sell a product or brand a name, I would be thinking really hard right now how to take advantage of the collaborative trends.
Already, news seems so saturated with an array of pseudo-events that stretch the definition of what constitutes relevant and significant information.
Ultimately, wire services and Websites will be challenged to ensure that citizen-sourced media is legitimate and credible. At the same time, maybe the prevailing public perception of mass media as a trustworthy source of information is so low, that it won't really make much of a difference.
Michael Tippett founder of PublicNow.com write in a recent post about the Anna Nicole Smith notes that many people are becoming concerned that the news is increasingly sensationalist and celebrity driven.
What really struck home was Tippett's comment on how news has changed in recent years.
"Where news goes wrong is when it goes from being the messenger to being the message. Where people get bored is when news produces celebrity instead of reporting on it."