Watching the BBC News 24 rolling news channel last Saturday afternoon as it rightly fixated on the ballsed-up terror attack on Glasgow Airport, it was at once gratifying and, frankly, worrying to see the constant flow of eye-witness pictures and videos hit the screen.
Gratifying because here was citizen journalism once again proving the point we've banged on about for two years now which is that whenever anything happens anywhere on the planet, it's going to be members of the public with cameras/cameraphones who are first on (or caught up in) the scene, well before the professional press pack gets there. Indeed, it was amusing listening to the BBC's first correspondent to arrive at the airport reporting from behind police lines ("I can see, er, smoke in the distance") while near-live pics captured by airport passengers were displayed on our TV screens. It's a powerful thing, this citizen journalism -- and absolutely essential for any news organisation to embrace. As the BBC does so well.
Worryingly well. Because while News 24 scooped the story with punters' pics, the flow of content into Scoopt was somewhat lacking.
Hmm. Why was that? Is it just that people don't care about getting paid for content -- content which is, in this case and others like it, extremely valuable (£££)? Is that they just don't know that there's a commercial market for amateur photos of a genuine news story but would use that market if they could -- and by extension a broker like Scoopt? Or is there a more complicated trend here where people's primary motivation is to share experiences... and only later, if at all, do they care about the potential for making money?
Probably the last of these. And in my view, that's probably best for the greater good. But what's important here -- what's really, really important -- is that people who want a fair reward for content that gets published or broadcast get that reward, either in the heat of the moment or later when the dust has settled. Because what really bugs me is when Sunday papers produce 8-page features using viewers' pictures grabbed (illegally) from TV broadcasts without paying the photographers a penny.
Not that I'm saying that this is necessarily what happened last weekend... but you can see the problem. When you send a hot picture to a broadcaster, will they sell it to the papers -- and if so, will you get paid or exploited? Or will they not sell it on -- in which case, is it any wonder if a paper resorts to publishing TV screengrabs when that's all they have?