Nov 16, 2005

Flickr, Buzznet expand citizens’ role in visual journalism

Traditional journalists and newspaper sites tap into online photo communities to gather visual research and allow readers to contribute and interact. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Source: USC/Annenberg Online Journalism Review
Written By Mark Glaser

Imagine if you were a photo editor at a major publication, and you could view and search through every digital photo on every computer in the world to put together a feature. Or if something spectacular happened, and you could search photo tags to see what everyone at the scene was seeing.

This dream of a global photo album, compiled in real time by amateur and professional shooters, hasn’t quite materialized, but photo-sharing services such as Flickr and Buzznet are giving us glimpses into that future.

New York Times Magazine columnist Rob Walker is using Flickr to compile nationwide views of the various Martin Luther King boulevards, while Boston Globe technology editor DC Denison used Flickr photos to illustrate a story in the paper. About 15 newspaper sites have created special Buzznet sites to showcase citizen photos of current events or hyper-local happenings. And the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle’s Spotted citizen photog section even has an army of 20 interns who cover parades and high school football.

These are baby steps toward what might become a revolution in visual journalism — broadening the variety of images we see on news sites and in print publications to include more than just traditional photojournalism. With these photo-sharing communities comes an inner view of the lives of the people in our neighborhoods — and a way to connect folks who like snapping photos at celebrations, who are fanatic about species of birds, or who can capture the mood on the streets.

“The thing about Flickr and Buzznet and all these sites is that they grew out of the exploding ease and efficiency for individuals to document their world and use images as a cheap form of connectivity to friends and loved ones,” said Xeni Jardin, co-editor of group blog BoingBoing. “That basket of sites and services came out of an amateur experience — it’s not a profit-driven experience. And there will be new services growing out of this idea of news organizations using stuff from real people, images from the man on the street. They used to go out with a mike and a camera to get that, but they might not have to do that in the future.”

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