Witnesses to History

Community voices have always contributed to local and national papers.

Citizen journalism is different. It often covers a wide territory from soliciting arts and entertainment coverage to providing the angle on the city council budget that the cub reporter might have missed.

The London attacks moved the trend to a new level. Web sites from the BBC’s to the Guardian’s provided eyewitness accounts, some showing up as little as an hour or two after the first bomb went off. Rather than relying on unfocused, rambling blog entries, the London papers and the Beeb ran pithy postings from the people who were there. They ran alongside the staff reporters’ accounts and presumably with the same amount of editing.

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With any luck, the performance of Great Britain’s daily papers and their Web sites will take us beyond the blogging-versus-journalism debate. They showed us regular people keeping their wits about them in a traumatic situation, and sharing what they experienced with the rest of us. The news staffs showed that they could blend that with their professional operations. —Robert MacMillanWitnesses to History (Washinigton Post (will expire))

The BBC is well ahead of the US when it comes to using citizen-provided content, but there are a few news outfits on this side of the Atlantic that are taking the plunge.