Why CNN is bringing its citizen journalism tool to Google Glass

Why CNN is bringing its citizen journalism tool to Google Glass

Summary: Citizen journalists can now interact with CNN's newsroom directly from a Google Glass app. Despite a low number of Glass owners, there is method to the apparent madness.

TOPICS: Networking
(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

CNN has become the first major U.S. news outlet to embrace wearable technology as a means to gather reports from citizen journalists around the country and the world.

On the face of it, it's a questionable decision, considering the scope and user base of Google Glass remains relatively low. An estimated 30,000 people own a pair of the wearable eyeglasses, but the majority are not likely to be wearing it on a day-to-day basis — let alone in a situation where they witness something newsworthy in the real world.

But it's not stopping the U.S. news network from experimenting with the technology, or the users who own one.

In a post this week, CNN iReport editor Katie Hawkins-Gaar explained the project was designed to expand its access to citizen journalists who submit stories, photos and videos on the ground. 

"You never know when you'll spot breaking news, and it's a simple, fast way to share the images and videos you capture with your Glass," she wrote.

iReport, the agency's citizen journalism platform, allows ordinary folks on the street to submit stories as de facto correspondents. The project helped CNN cover major events, including the London bombings in 2005 and the Nigerian protests in late 2011, among others.

On its fifth anniversary in August 2011, CNN had more than 1 million registered iReporters, and some form of content had been submitted from every country in the world.

"While we are doing things like investing in wearable technology like Google Glass, we’re also thinking about simplifying the upload process so that it’s easy for anyone to share their story, no matter where they are."
— Katie Hawkins-Gaar

But while the project remains in its early stages, the end-game point is to help CNN experiment and learn, Hawkins-Gaar told ZDNet in an email.

She said that Glass users may be in their limited numbers but were passionate and eager to try the next thing. And, she added, that it was to help the news agency learn more about when Glass can and should be used by its own reporters on assignment or working on collaborative projects.

"From an iReport standpoint, making it easier for people to upload iReports and share stories with CNN is key for us," she said. "The Google Glass functionality is part of that. We're also focused on better integration with social networks like Instagram, where countless people are sharing amazing images and stories every day."

Although many news agencies, like the BBC and CBS (which owns ZDNet and sister-site CNET) allow citizens to upload breaking news through photos and video content, verifying it can be tricky, and takes time to process the various information to ensure it is accurate.

"Before any iReport is approved for CNN, it goes through a strict verification process. We have a team of iReport producers dedicated to just that," she said. That can include checking the metadata of the raw file to make sure it was taken at a certain time and place that lines up with the developing story.

iReport is already available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and Nokia devices. Venturing into the realm of Google Glass may help make that process easier, but it's not without its limitations.

CNN's iReport has a global community, but for now Glass-based iReports will be limited to U.S.-based citizen journalists, as Google Glass remains only available in the country.

It's a balance, Hawkins-Gaar suggested. In some countries Android phones take the majority market share, while in other nations iPhones rule the roost. In the anticipation that Glass may well one day become a mainstream technology, dabbling with wearable-based news gathering would be a step up from most other news outlets, which have their own global staff base.

"It's important to think about how users in various countries with various access to technology will share their stories," she said. 

"While we are doing things like investing in wearable technology like Google Glass, we're also thinking about simplifying the upload process so that it's easy for anyone to share their story, no matter where they are," she said. 

Topic: Networking

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Payed by Google.

    • Agreed. There's the the apparent madness.

      given Google and CNN's shared interests outside of technology.
  • citizen journalists?

    Talk about pumping up the ego's of any Joe Smo on the street who's willing to provide CNN free content.

    So many people look for their 15 minutes of fame these days that they don't consider the danger they may expose themselves to or others around them.

    General-public citizens are not trained/aware of the do's and don't of what is appropriate/factual journalism, yet CNN doesn't have a problem exploiting these people for their own use.

    What happens if/when someone gets injured in the process of "reporting" on a story? Will CNN pay that individuals workers-comp/medical bills? The use of the term "Journalists" is a joke and a car-salesman tactic to stroke the ego of the person IMO.

    This could turn bad quickly for fools leaping before looking, in an effort to participate on the news.

    Well see how long it takes for things to go wrong for one of CNN's "Citizen Journalists".
  • The Anti-Christ

    The only way I'd even consider wearing Google Glass is if the Anti-Christ appears in my lifetime and the only way I can buy food is to wear the damned thing.
    • Bow down?

      So, you would accept the mark rather than learn how to grow and harvest dandelions. Trading eternal life for temporary pleasures somehow doesn't seem worth it.
    • How is wearing a camera via glasses, worse from one slung about the neck?

      I don't get all this angst over wearable tech. Tourists wear cameras. One can wear both a camera and a microphone undetected in many ways. You should just regard yourself as public property whenever IN public, or posting or writing something via the internet. For you never know who or what will 'listen'. And if you are positing God, well then -- God listens and watches all the time. Of course, if you believe in God then you'd regard every thought as 'public', to Him. As should be.

      So then, what difference does it make, if anyone else can hear and see you? If that bothers you, go sit on a mountain alone, somewhere.
  • CNN and Google Glass: a match made in oblivion-land...

    "Despite a low number of Glass owners", they will partner up with a network with a "very low number of viewers".

    IOW, welcome to nothingness and nowhere and "who?".

    BTW, journalism and CNN are complete opposites, and should never be used in the same sentence.
  • Someone has modified a RaspberryPi to do similar stuff...

    Since they seem to be destined for 2nd place at best among US cable news networks, this is an opportunity to be cutting edge and promote citizen journalism, especially since the content is edited and filtered, just like any other story.