Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, the use of photographic documents and audio-visual material produced by non-journalists has increased in news media offices, websites and TV channels.
It is now part of professional media culture to appeal for witnesses to a natural disaster or a crime incident. Some offices even have specialised teams looking for this material.
How are amateur photos or videos technically and journalistically validated? Are they presented as being from an amateur source? Should they be paid for and under what conditions?
De Standaard : Rarely used
De Standaard rarely publishes amateur photographs. This is usually justified by their exclusive nature, as for the death of the Dutch director Theo van Gogh. All precautions are taken in these cases to check the images.
Europe 1 : Information not provided
France 24 : The principle of observers
France 24 has a team of observers who look for amateur documents. They supply content to channels and websites and also have a weekly programme. The content is sent by the network of observers or found on social networks.
By collaborating with them over a long period and expecting them to be there on the spot, we are working to improve the reliability of these observers.
From a more technical point of view, France 24 analyses the metadata of images (camera used, time of the shot, GPS coordinates). If any of these have been altered we know the picture has been retouched.
In terms of the way it is treated, the editing will respect the initial document and wrap the text. The light can be adjusted and infographics used to circle or highlight details. The original image can be augmented with the words of witnesses, added by the editorial team.
Le Monde : These are accepted but not paid for
There is a system of appealing for eyewitness accounts. The authenticity of amateur documents is checked like any other information. No remuneration is provided.
Ouest France : Not used
Berliner Zeitung : Amateur material is not used
Images produced by amateurs are not published.
ZDF : Not used
The Irish Times : Checked and not paid for
Polskie Radio, kanal 3 : Not relevant
BBC : The reliability of the documents / images is stressed
A team of six people are responsible for checking the authenticity of amateur documents. The BBC broadcasts many of them and always highlights the reliability of the image.
Amateur images can be paid for in exceptional circumstances.
The Guardian : These are seldom paid for
The Guardian uses a lot of these. Amateur material is seldom paid for.