The conversation then opened up among the panelists. Perton asked King about “damage control” for false iReports at CNN. King replied that they rely on community policing, which is very effective. In a few instances, however, inaccurate information has been picked up and disseminated by sites like Digg before it could be corrected. Sucherman jumped in to defend iReports and said that one bad incident should not destroy the system. Muller agreed that people spot and correct errors very quickly online.

Perton then asked how readers’ ability to rank and recommend favorite stories affects news prioritization. Sucherman said he originally worried that with such a system, the top headlines would always involve celebrities
like Britney Spears, but that hasn’t been the case. People want to talk about important things like the presidential election and be engaged, he said. And because of that, journalists have recognized the potential resources and talent their readers and audiences provide.

The conference closed by returning to a short discussion of business models for journalism and consumer reporting. All the panelists agreed that it is a difficult time to launch a publication or a career in journalism, especially
one that makes money. Nevertheless, there is a growing demand for reporters that have “grown up” with social media and are well versed in reporting, writing, and a host of multimedia skills from video and sound editing to Web
production. As Sucherman put it, if you don’t mind being in an unsettled and uncertain world, “there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Historians will write about this moment.”

 

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.