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Using Your Viewers/Readers As Stringers

Dan Gillmore of the San Jose Merc points out an interesting new initiative at the Beeb. Recognizing that the latest generation of cell phones can not only take photos but send them out wirelessly, the BBC has set up a phone number for people to send in pictures of news events they witness -- or are part of. The best of them are published at the BBC's web site, and possibly on the air.

This is a significant change in the news paradigm. When MSNBC went on the air in 1995 or 1996, I buttonholed Andy Lack -- then president of MSNBC, later head of NBC News, then NBC, and now Sony Music. I asked him if Microsoft's involvement in the channel meant there would be any kind of electronic interactivity with viewers. He kind of snorted and wondered aloud why any news organization would want that.

On September 11, I bet he wished he'd had some better way of hearing from viewers in place.




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