Public input will 'liberate journalism', predicts Snow

Citizen journalism will help "professionalise professional journalism", according to Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

Speaking on a panel at the Guardian's Changing Media Summit on Monday, Snow said user-generated content was not a threat to traditional journalism.

"I have no problem with it at all. I see it as a completely liberating formula,"

said Snow, who described viewers' tips as "gold-dust flying our way". Recently, he said, Whitehall secretaries had emailed him lists of peerages that were helpful in his coverage of the loans-forlordships scandal.

The biggest problem, he said, was sorting though the volume of information viewers were supplying.

"Of course, there's loads of rubbish out there, but in terms of its impact on traditional media, it's not a problem," he said. "The only issue is how do we manage it and how do we reconfigure the newsroom to do so."

Facilitating feedback and transparency had helped democratise journalism, Snow argued. "You begin to look back on what you were doing and you think it was so undemocratic, it was so unresponsive, it was so arrogant," he said.

Journalism could no longer afford to be a one-way street, he said, adding that there were still too many newspaper columnists who failed to put their email addresses at the foot of their pieces.

But he also warned that citizen journalism was forcing professional journalists to raise their standards.

Increased competition and criticism from amateurs would help to "professionalise professional journalism" because "quite a lot of it was not very professional to begin with".

"There are a whole lot of people who entered journalism 25 years ago that no longer will be there," he said.

Ben Hammersley, a journalist and web developer who led development of The Guardian's new blog, Comment is Free, echoed Snow's sentiments.

Describing the early experience of Comment is Free, Hammersley said: "A lot of the user-generated content is almost as good as the lower end of the professional comment. If you're not very good, you're kind of screwed, because the audience is better than you."

Editors would soon begin questioning the high salaries of columnists who offered material that was little better than what was offered by bloggers for nothing, Hammersley predicted.

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