In the event of war or natural disasters, it is difficult for any news organization to send out photographers and reporters in time. This is when sites like the BBC need to rely on their audience for their stories, creating user generated content through a process called “crowdsourced journalism.”

Most recently was the call for stories and pictures from survivors of the Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile. The audience contributions, ranging from a few sentences to a few paragraphs, were first-hand accounts that the BBC would have not been able to accessed otherwise. They were featured on the website’s Have Your Say page, created just for audience content.

The BBC even featured a couple stories in article length pieces, like the story of Ricardo Leon. For this piece, the BBC only had to write the headline and a very brief introduction. Everything else was quoted directly from Leon.

Surprisingly, there aren’t as many pictures and comments for the earthquake in Chile as I had expected. I’m not sure if it’s because the BBC didn’t get as many, or they just chose not to publish them (since audience submissions do seem to be closely monitored).

The BBC’s Have Your Say page also poses several questions each day regarding popular news stories for the audience to debate about.  The one featured on their main page asks “Can Jacob Zuma’s stat visit improve his credibility?” which generated 307 comments.

A major incentive for users to participate in crowdsourcing journalism is to be recognized. BBC provides just that four their readers. Two reader’s comments are also quoted on the main Have Your Say page regarding the question about Zuma’s visit to the UK.

Another page on the website (In Pictures) features pictures submitted by the audience.  Readers can turn in their portfolios on a specific subject of their choice. Or the BBC also provides weekly themes for gallery submissions. The most recent theme is “dreaming.”

What the BBC does with In Pictures and Have Your Say is similar to CNN’s iReport. Here readers can contribute to online conversations regarding major news stories. However, CNN keeps all their user generated content on one page. The BBC should do this as well.

Like the BBC, CNN gives there readers weekly assignments to submit stories or pictures, the most recent being the earthquake in Chile. While the BBC had two pages of short user comments/stories, CNN focused more on featured pieces. CNN featured about 19 Chile earthquake assignment stories, each linking to a new page. Some of these are slide shows of pictures. Others are longer stories with pictures. This makes it seem more organized, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

One of the problems with crowd sourcing is the daunting task of moderating every reader’s submissions. On each page that iReport links to, a window pops up to warn the reader that CNN does not edit, fact-check or screen these stories. Maybe this is why the BBC has fewer stories. For the Chile assignment, I only found two stories featured on the BBC. The BBC does a great job of monitoring user content. In order to submit materials or make a comment, a user must first register. The BBC also makes sure their users understand the guidelines they must adher to in order to participate in crowd sourcing journalism.

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