<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/intro13.jpg”>When a big story breaks, and there’s no journalist around to hear it – does the news still have a voice? The guys behind Meporter, an intriguing new location-aware news app certainly think so – and they’d like to put you forward for the job. Everyone’s a citizen journalist these days, as more and more news stories comprise of grainy (though not always) camera phone video or blurry shots that only an eye-witness could have captured.
The recently launched Meporter is your chance to streamline the citizen journalist role. Currently there’s only an iPhone app available, though both Android and Blackberry versions are on the cards and hopefully won’t take too long.
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The main problem with citizen journalism is the often amateur nature of an untrained reporter in the wild. Don’t expect the “6 Ws” (what, where, who, why, when and how) in your opening paragraph, and don’t expect a highly detailed news story with quotes, figures and perfect wording either.
Instead what you will often find is a rough description and (hopefully) pictures or video of a news event, shot at the scene. The point I’m making here is that Meporter will not become your primary news app, mainly due to a lack of proper reporting.
This isn’t to say it’s not useful, and more to the point quite fun. Many events reported on Meporter have yet to (or never will) make it to the national press, and there’s a vast range of news, views and content to explore. The service accepts submissions in categories such as opinion, nightlife and entertainment as well as the traffic, weather and general news reports you’d expect to see.
As the app is location-aware, the first screen you’ll see (after the download and granting permission to use your location) is your local area, with reports marked on the map with red pins. At first it took a while to load stories, with news pins seemingly vanishing. After a few minutes the app settled down, and I was able to read some local news and goings on.
Panning around the map allows you to browse global reports, tapping a pin will reveal the report title and tapping it a further time loads the story. Afoot each story are 4 buttons – Favorite which marks the story for later, Eyewitness which allows you to “check in” and verify the story, Directions which is fairly obvious and Share for posting to social networks.
As well as the Map view, there also exists a Newswire panel which lists all stories coming in. It’s not a bad way to see what’s happening though unfortunately you can’t filter by region (you can still filter by category). On this screen it is also possible to subscribe to and follow particular users, though you’ll need to register first.
Registering allows you to produce content, communicate with other Meporters and customize your very own profile. Within the app, tap Profile then Join and fill out the registration form. Once joined, finding associates that might be using the service is pretty easy over on the Friends tab.
Next you’ll want to prepare a news post, on the Post tab. You’ll need to give your story a title and some body text with the option of adding a photo or video as well. Choose a category and tag your location (automatic if access to GPS is granted) before choosing whether to post to Twitter or Facebook as well.
Unless the building across the road is on fire, you’ll need to find something decent worth posting. There’s plenty of categories to choose from, including classified adverts and weather reports if you’re especially short on material (I was).
Once you’ve posted a story or two, you’ll begin to earn “Press Passes” which are essentially the same as badges on Foursquare or stickers on GetGlue – trophies from your past reportage. This isn’t a bad touch, though it has less “punch” here than say Foursquare because Meporter seems to be far more useful in the first place.
From here on out it’s up to you to find news, check out local happenings and share your findings online for all to see before the media get their hands on it. Of course, it doesn’t have to be newsworthy provided it’s interesting and fits into one of the categories!
Meporter is a fun app that currently suffers from a lack of reporters. At the moment it’s up to the iPhone crowd to provide the news, but hopefully with Android and Blackberry apps on the way they’ll be joined by an army of additional mobile correspondents in the coming months.
If you ever find yourself in the thick of it, Meporter can help get the story out there in record time. Joining Meporter at this early stage in the game earns you the Million Man press pass, entering you into a competition to win cash and other prizes as Meporter attempts to build up a solid userbase of at least one million active users.
What do you think of Meporter and other citizen journalist projects? Useful, fun or a waste of time? Will you use the Android or Blackberry versions when they land? Let us know what you think in the comments.