Something often taken for granted by journalists, particularly students, is being able to get an image for pretty much whatever subject for free and use it legally thanks to Creative Commons.
Whatever the article is, how many times have you searched through Flickr to find a nice little shot to illustrate your piece? It’s a phenomenally useful tool, from just adding more colour to an article or some more unusual and creative uses.
But how many people who use it actually contribute back to the commons? Personally, not as much as I probably should or could – there’s a bunch of photos you can use on my left-for-dead Flickr page (if you want some photos of Doctor Who monsters, hey, feel free) and all the work for the Dev8D and DevXS conferences, including the full film, are CC-licensed.
But not much that I’ve done as a journalist. Which made me wonder – are there ways that journalists, particularly ones that make use of CC content, could release more content to the community?
One of the big reasons more don’t do this could be financial: if you can license your photos for profit, why give them away free? Journalism isn’t exactly awash with money right now, so why cut off a revenue stream? If you’re in a business, you’ve paid for it, so why shouldn’t others? And as stories are the bread and butter – is there a point giving away that hard work?
Wired Magazine last year started releasing staff photos for reuse, but with the requirement for credit and asking for a link back. Having the link has some benefits for Wired of advertising of content and SEO, as well as being good for their brand. See, I’m talking about them now. Oh no, I’ve just been suckered in by it. I even linked them too.
Even if it was on a selective content basis, I think it’d be a good thing if there was more sharing of parts of content from journalists. Maybe selected parts of audio or video interviews, certain photography too, and allow it for remixing with contribution. People are remixing all sorts of content online already and it’s fantastic. It’d be better if it were legal and encouraged.
Obviously it’s something where this could vary from national behemoths to hyperlocal sites, student work or individual blogs: depending on a million different factors. It’s not a debate to which I have any answers to, but think it’s one worth having. If journalism is about the sharing of information, maybe there’s more they can share.