Citizen Journalism Comes Of Age During Ike

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Raycom-owned NBC Affiliate in Lake Charles was able to air more than 2,500 pieces of viewer-provided content.

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The seemingly endless stream of pictures and video was compelling and at times breathtaking. The stories our viewers captured and narrated provided a depth of coverage we could once only dream of integrating into our air and web news product.

Although the full impact of hurricane Ike is still not yet known, one thing is certain: disasters like Ike can now be covered on the local level more comprehensively than ever before thanks to a new platform that allows viewers and readers to quickly send images and videos to local stations and newspapers.

KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, LA implemented the platform Cell Journalist, shortly before hurricane Ike pummeled the Louisiana and Texas coast on September 12 and 13. During the 24-hour period in which the hurricane came ashore, the NBC affiliate serving a community of approximately 71,000 residents received over 2,500 images and videos that allowed station viewers unprecedented witness to the disaster as it unfolded.

The station's website that normally gets slightly under a half million page views in an entire month experienced 1.1 million page views during the weekend the hurricane hit the area. Even more remarkable is the fact that the number of "unique visitors" was equal to roughly half the total number of households in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the average time visitors spent on the KPLC website exceeded fifteen minutes. By the end of the first week after the hurricane, the number of hits to the website had increased to more than two million.

"The coverage of Ike shows that citizen journalism has truly gained traction at the local level," said Cell Journalist Founder Parker Polidor. "On both ends of the news equation, people want to be involved and they want to experience what their neighbors are experiencing when their neighbors are experiencing it."

Polidor, whose Nashville-based Cell Journalist is now serving a growing number of media operations from Oregon to Texas to Vermont, launched the idea shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Cell Journalist provides a turnkey platform that allows local media outlets to encourage their audience to send in images and videos of news or community events. The platform offers the ability to upload content from mobile phones and dynamically syndicate content along with multiple advertising opportunities for local stations.

KPLC-TV general manager Jim Serra says his station's ability to connect with viewers at a very critical time exceeded everyone's expectations. "Cell Journalist, which we have branded KPLC ViewerNet, has emerged as an essential coverage tool for us this hurricane season," Serra said. "The seemingly endless stream of pictures and video was compelling and at times breathtaking. The stories our viewers captured and narrated provided a depth of coverage we could once only dream of integrating into our air and web news product."

For additional information about Cell Journalist, visit http://www.celljournalist.com.

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Parker Polidor
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