Tools for citizen journalists

The Arab Spring proved the effectiveness of on-the-spot news reporting by non-professional witnesses, bringing images of social and political upheaval and giving major news organisations and the public glimpses of what was happening, when it was happening. Here we’ve assembled a few simple iPhone (and Android) tools anyone can use when they find themselves living the news.

[CTV News President Robert Hurst on the success of the Dejero LIVE Platform during the 2010 Winter Olympics Olympic Torch Relay. (Which didn’t use an iPhone.]

Dejero LIVE

LIVE + is a portable broadcasting system that lets iPhone users capture and deliver live HD or SD video using a mobile network or Wi-Fi. The system intelligently shares load between the chosen network(s) in order to ensure the best possible quality.

The app also makes use of both front and rear-facing cameras so reporters can film themselves offering up some commentary on what is taking place. The system also supports broadcast quality cameras when used with the company’s hardware solutions. For on the fly reports, the iPhone app is free, but requires Dejero LIVE + Broadcaster server.

Citizenside

An app and an active and busy online portal offering up a host of freshly-captured local content, the iPhone/Android app supports Facebook sign-up, in-app filming and tools such as voting, social network integration and email sharing of content.

The limitation of course is the need to set up an account, a step that could leave some reporters exposed to potentially being identified in situations of social/political instability.

The website is quite interesting, as it offers an interesting location for alternative news and reporting of events which might otherwise remain unknown. What makes it even more interesting is that the world’s third largest news agency, AFP, owns shares in Citizenside and frequently offers up its content.

Completure

Developed directly in response to the Arab Spring by a Lebanese national, Completure (formerly known as Signal) lets users capture still images of real-world events using their iPhone cameras. These short clips are geo-tagged and then can be browsed and voted upon by other users, though video isn’t yet supported by the app.

The geo-tagging has raised some concerns, particularly for people filming in a trouble spot who might be fearful of being identified as doing so. For that reason the service lets users place a delay before images (with location data) are published and in future the location won’t need to be displayed with the image.

This solution isn’t available yet but is expected to emerge from private beta soon.

[How the Meporter system works.]

Meporter

This system tries to cover a lot of bases, supporting words, images and video alongside tools for export of content to social media networks. Content is assigned by categories (crime, entertainment, sport).

The caveat for some potential reporters must be that the service requires users to log in in order to confirm their location information, which could put reporters at risk in some situations.

The positive side of this requirement for self-identification is that the service supports a range of social networking features, so friends and fans can easily follow your feed and keep track of your new stories as they are made available.

[Rawporter stresses the commercial potential of citizen news reporting.]

Rawporter

The Rawporter app uses your iPhone to capture video that is then uploaded to a shared online platform from which media outlets can view and purchase clips for use on shows. Still and video images can be shared in this way. In a future upgrade the company intends making it possible for media firms to file general requests for specific footage.

However, it seems unlikely too many Rawporters will grow rich through the system, which hasn’t begun selling content just yet.

That citizen journalism is coming into its own is clearly evidenced by the changing habits of news channels: you see more and more phone-captured video clips on broadcast news, and CNN even offers its own iReport service to stimulate such reporting.

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