Now that everyone can be a publisher, it’s becoming increasingly more important for citizen journalists to be verified before their content is used on any news outlet. Are you really who you say you are?
As citizens, you have to be able to trust the media that represents you, but that also works in reverse order. If you are going to contribute to the news, you have to be able to be trusted. How plausible is this? Well, that’s to be determined, but I fear soon enough, news outlets will want all of their user-generated content to come from a verified user.
Admittedly, from a news organization’s perspective, it has to be scary when you’re using user-generated content and you aren’t sure if it has been altered or doctored in any way, but as some would say- it’s part of the risk. Is the risk worth the reward? Part of user authentication is moderating what people post- it’s an easy way to keep your news organization focused on the message you are trying to portray. This, however, also has the potential to cause problems. As media professionals, we want to be able to allow people to speak their opinions freely, to bring up points that start conversation and to keep the two-way conversation going without causing harm.
We see problems frequently during cases of breaking news. A knee-jerk reaction can be incredibly detrimental to both citizen journalists and professional news organizations. On facebook alone, research has shown that businesses and organizations most often post photos, so it is even more important to make sure those photos are accurate, especially during busy news cycles and breaking news.
With a reputation on the line, it is important to find a balance between too much monitoring and not enough monitoring, because if an organization leans too far in either direction, more people are going to be unhappy, nullifying the purpose of engaging citizens. Ultimately, we should want people to feel comfortable speaking their opinions, whether they agree or not.
I do agree that user-verification is becoming increasingly more important- and I think we’re going to see more of it in the future. Today, with more news sources than ever before, news organizations have to fight for the trust of the public in which they represent, giving them more pressure to make sure whatever content they use (and no matter where it comes from) can be trusted.