Sunday, March 1, 2009

Broadcast stations cope by enlisting college students as citizen reporters

New York's WPIX-TV, which beams into 10 million homes, is the latest broadcast station to enlist journalism students as (unpaid) citizen reporters.

WPIX, which is owned by the CW Network, has offered Stony Brook University's pupils 18 new video cameras. WPIX news director Karen Scott says, "It helps to have more eyes and ears around the area."

Students of a few other area universities, including Rutgers, Fordham, and NYU have already received a similar benefit, as have students in other states. From an AP report today:
ABC News last fall began a partnership with Arizona State, Syracuse, Florida, North Carolina and Texas universities to set up news bureaus where students can be trained and contribute content. They've already done a lot of work online, and student contributions were used for "Good Morning America" stories on innovative ways students are cheating and how the economy is affecting colleges.

This month ABC expanded it with a "roving reporter" initiative online, allowing college students anywhere to pitch and potentially do stories under the network's guidance.
Clearly it's a great deal for the journalism students -- or is it? Is it sucking up the very jobs those students are training to get? Which comes first, layoffs or citizen journalism? And should viewers worry about individuals "who are less than qualified journalists" (words of Jim Joyce, an official of a broadcast technicians union) gathering news and making editorial decisions?

Old questions for us at CCJIG, but never more relevant.

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