Opportunistic citizen journalism

Earlier this week I was in St. Petersburg for a meeting of AP's Digital Advisory Committee. I'm not going to blog what transpired there, because it's a forum for discussing some confidential strategic issues, but I heard one thing that's such a good idea I just have to pass it along.

AP is equipping its reporters and photographers with a very simple piece of old technology: paper, in the form of a release document. If you're covering a major public news event, there's likely to be someone there with a camera phone. And in it may be the picture of the year. It could happen. Rather than hope it shows up on Flickr with the appropriate license attached, the AP staffer can perhaps persuade the "citizen journalist" to sign a release and provide the image on the spot. Smart.

I also like that it gives the staffer something tangible to reinforce the concept. Much better than an email saying it's a good idea.

You can do all this without the release, but in this rights-management-crazy world we live in, the paperwork is a good idea.

I'm on the record as having issues with the term "citizen journalism," but this is a case where it fits.


I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with this idea. Seems to me there's ample room for misunderstanding and further degradation of the reporter/photographer, who's now also asked to act as an intellectual property negotiator. I'm glad the AP is trying to think ahead and be innovative. Not sure that's a situation I'd want to put reporters in.

My understanding is that it's not a case of the reporter negotiating, but collecting -- which after all is the job -- and making sure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted by having a standard form.