Audience participation in digital media creates groundbreaking content, but only when the story is true.

Citizen reporting highlighted startling disparities in police use of force. 
Two recent news stories have showcased the power that the public has in creating and distributing media, and the pros and cons of involving a news source's audience in its production.  The switch from printed to digital media has opened the door for regular people to become reporters, using cell phone cameras and social media to record events.  The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement can be attributed in part to the several videos of racially biased policing that regular citizens shot of officers killing African American men during arrests. These raw images would have been nearly impossible to capture with a traditional news team and sparked a debate that will hopefully transform the experience of being black in America.

While the submitted videos of police violence demonstrate the positive impact that regular people can make when they can participate in creating and distributing news, the leaked videos about Planned Parenthood show what can happen when audience members choose to use public media for personal gain.  When an anti-abortion group released a series of videos that seemed to show a Planned Parenthood official discussing selling fetal body parts for profit, the story made headlines worldwide. Later, independent tests showed that the videos had been edited and most likely distorted the truth of the conversations that they recorded.

Public participation in the new age of information has the potential to elevate both news and entertainment.  However, when everyone can publish information or pass it to a reporter, it becomes even more important for medial outlets to do their best to verify whether the information is true. Audience members are helping to tell some of the most important stories of this generation, but it only counts if those stories are true.

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