Bending the Rules to Report the Story

By Chris Ariens Comment

The NYTimes’ Brian Stelter looks at the how the reporting on the Iran crisis is bending most conventional rules of journalism — due in large part because journalists aren’t allowed in the country too cover what’s going on. That includes CNN’s iReports.

In the vetting process, CNN contacts the person who posted the material, asks questions about the content and tries to confirm its veracity. Lila King, the executive in charge of iReport, said the staff members try to “triangulate the details” of an event by corroborating stories with multiple iReport contributors in a given area. Farsi speakers at CNN sometimes listened intently to the sound from the protest videos, discerning the accents of Iranian cities and transcribing the chants and screams.</blockquote

But the iReports are just one way citizen journalists are reporting the story. Cable and broadcast networks are also relying on YouTube and Twitter for information.

Television anchors were frequently put in the same position while covering Iran. Last Wednesday, the Fox News anchor Shepard Smith showed a YouTube video of police officials beating and dragging people. “We do not know when or where this video was from,” Mr. Smith told viewers. “We do not even know if it was staged, although we have no reason to believe that.” All he knew for sure was that it was “recently uploaded to YouTube.” For news organizations that face reporting constraints, that has become a good enough starting point.


In a CNN iReport video added to the site today, a citizen journalist in Tehran captures what is presumably a member of the Iranian military shooting on crowds below. Click on the image to see the video