Paul Grabowicz and Steve Outing, both posting on Poynter Online's E-Media Tidbits last week, note that it's not just the news media asking citizens to send in their eyewitness images: Law enforcement is doing the same.
Of course, it's nothing new for the police to ask citizens to provide information. What's different in the two examples cited here is that law enforcement is setting up web sites specifically for this purpose.
In this blog we focus on media, where grassroots-media/citizen-journalism activity is high right now. It's interesting to see how the concept can apply to other sectors of society.
Responding to Outing's post, Brendan Watson questions whether that term should be applied to what the police are seeking:
Citizen snitching, perhaps. Community watch, perhaps. But journalism? We usually call people who do this type of work either police (or in the case of citizens assisting in police work informants). Aren't you concerned that we're throwing this term around way too much to the point that it will soon be absolutely meaningless? Perhaps better term to sum up this current digital movement is personal media. ...
Another debate over terminology. In each case, citizens are being asked to report what they observe. The difference, as Watson says in the rest of his comment:
But journalism seems to envoke an intent to communicate with a mass audience, a committment to public service, and hopefully to some basic journalistic values that aren't present in much of what is currently being called citizen journalism.
What the citizen eyewitness does with the image will be much more interesting than what we call it. It won't matter much for events with multiple witnesses with cameras; some will submit to police, others to citizen journalism web sites. But what happens when one person has the key photo or video? Does he or she post to a personal blog, submit it to large media web site, go through a middleman like Scoopt, or send it to the police? My guess is that we'll see all of the above, though if citizens come to expect payment for high-demand images -- and why wouldn't they? -- the police may wind up near the bottom of the list.