Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Apr 11 2005

Neighbors Reporting The News

Have you ever read a story in the newspaper that you knew had some incorrect information because you were there when the story happened? That happened to me recently. I walked to an one-car accident near my home and spoke to the driver. The actual reporter did not arrive until an hour later, and when the story appeared in the paper a number of facts were incorrect, including the direction in which the vehicle was traveling. I know my neighborhood a lot better than that reporter knows it. This isn't the first story I've read that had errors. It really makes me wonder how much of what is reported to us day after day is full of mistakes and misinformation.

News, as reported to us by others, has largely been a convenient service that we've all used because we can't all be in every place. It's been easier to sit down once or twice a day and catch up on the day's happenings after a wire service or small group of reporters and editors gathered all the little bits and pieces into a digest of what's been happening while we were busy making a living and getting kids' braces adjusted. But the news isn't just what happens somewhere else. Some news affects us greatly, and I'm a little surprised that more of us haven't demanded more control over what we see and hear.

It's been changing the past few decades. It's been slow change, but the changes have brought more and more people into the process of reporting. Talk radio began to pull in listeners as part of the news programming. Commuters have been given a special number to call on their cell phones to let stations know about traffic accidents. C-Span and other cable TV networks have added caller input. But newsprint, and even newspaper sites online, have been made up largely of content that was handed down to the reader by editors and reporters hired by the papers.

With blogs, camera phones and cell phones readily available and in use by growing numbers of the public, newspapers are going to have to understand that the public isn't as dependent on their editorial content as we used to be. And many of us are not content with having a letter to the editor be our only chance at input into the news.

One outfit is trying to take reporting to the next level and make the local news not only for the local people and about the local people, but by the local people. Bluffton Today is incorporating blogs, readers' photos, reader forums and more. While some papers are trying to figure out how to start charging for online content this bunch of savvy people has figured out that readers would much rather be an active part of news reporting. A hearty tip of the Stetson goes to CyberJournalist for the link.

posted at: 08:13 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!