There's no shortage of user-generated content available online. But how can we integrate all of this content into news Web sites?
The examples are many:
A clip of U.S. Senator George Allen's racially derogatory comment on YouTube.
Animal rights organizations and Internet users breaking the story on poisoned pet food from China.
Integrating User-Generated Content, moderated by Dean Wright of Reuters, introduced Linda Strean of GreatSchools.net; Lila King of CNN.com; and Patrick Cooper of USA TODAY as representives from organizations that face issues trying to deal with an increasing amount of user-generated content.
"Our job is to not only provide news that's straight, unbiased. . .we also have a responsibility to showcase the conversations our world is having," said Wright.
Linda Strean works with GreatSchools.net, a site that provides parents with information on local schools. This information includes government data, test scores, and ethnic breakdowns of schools, explained Strean.
Lila King leads a participation group at CNN.com. Her job is to engage the audience in the storyelling process. The biggest tool they use is I-Report, which invites users to send first-person stories, videos, and photos to CNN's editorial and news gathering groups. CNN.com also uses pre-moderated story comments, user-generated content-driven blogs to integrate readers.
"Before you can integrate any user content, you have to get it first," said King. "That's the biggest challenge."
King said this could be as simple as turning on the comments option on story pages. CNN.com has also been putting images sent in by users on its main page. "It's a chicken-and-egg problem," she pointed out. "You have to show something on the site prominently so that you can get more."
What kind of issues and events should be opened up to user comments? What types of stories would benefit from user-generated videos? These are two questions to keep in mind.
CNN.com uses user-generated content in weather, spot news (usually videos), and obituaries. King says user comments and videos related to the deaths of Jerry Falwell and Anna Nicole Smith, for example, were extremely revealing. "It's the sort of thing you're not going to get by making a thousand phone calls."
Patrick Cooper of USA TODAY practices "network journalism" to create conversations and communities that are valuable to organizations, readers, and journalists. Cooper asked us to look at what people are saying. Why are they saying it? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? He wants us to ask why people are they doing what they are doing in our communities. USA TODAY uses blogs, comments, and media sharing to establish connections and communities for readers and reporters.
The most interesting idea in this panel was the idea of getting stories out of user comments. Cooper used the example of the Radiohead album story on USA TODAY: the story evolved from a piece about the band's pay-what-you-want pricing scheme, to a piece called "Were Radiohead fans duped by the download?" because of user comments.
"In the spirit of 'user-generated content,' this should be turned to the reader -- which is you," directed Wright.
The floor was opened to questions for the three panelists, mainly about abuse reporting, different types of moderating systems, and dealing with false information submitted by users.