Almost a decade ago—before Twitter even existed, before Facebook hit the mainstream, before Snapchat and Instagram and Vine—CNN launched an ambitious venture called iReport. The idea was to allow ordinary citizens to submit news to the media giant via the Internet, to tap into what was then called “citizen journalism.”
There’s no question it was a pioneering effort, perhaps even as revolutionary in its own way as the launch of CNN itself in 1980. But the idea of a central place where ordinary citizens can submit news has been overtaken by the social web—that’s effectively the way millions of people already use Twitter, for example.
So what happens to iReport now? Meredith Artley, editor-in-chief of CNN Digital, said in an interview with Fortune that the service is being rebooted and re-imagined for the current social-media era. The new version of the site, which was first reported by Digiday, launches next week.
“We continue to cherish that iReport community,” Artley said. “It has gotten smaller over the years, but it’s still there. We could have made the decision to get rid of it but we chose not to because it still has a lot of value. We just want to try and connect it more into what we’re doing through social networks.”
The major change, Artley said, is that instead of trying to convince users to post their news tips and other information at the iReport site, CNN will ask them to use a hashtag—#CNNiReport—to tag tips or news they are posting to Twitter and Facebook. The team behind the new iReport site will then track that hashtag and other posts through social networks and curate the best of them for the CNN service.
“We want to make it much more a part of what we’re doing with social,” said Artley. “We kind of had iReport on a separate platform, so it wasn’t really connected into CNN or our other social efforts. That’s going to change.”
CNN currently has three inter-related social teams. One does social discovery, tracking what stories are trending, etc., and this is the team that will be working most closely with the new iReport. Another team works on social publishing—i.e., publicizing CNN content—and a third handles promotional events and related features for the “talent” such as anchor Anderson Cooper.
“iReport really was a trailblazer, a really bold endeavour when it launched in 2006, and it was the seed that established CNN as a leader in connecting with our audiences,” said Artley. “We have built on that and we plan to continue, including investing a lot more in off-platform programming through Apple News and Facebook Notify and other partners.”
The other significant change, the CNN Digital editor said, is that iReport members will no longer be able to post items to the site without having them verified by an editor first. That feature led to one of the early failures of the iReport system in 2008, when a fake report about Apple CEO Steve Jobs having a heart attack hit the site and briefly influenced the share price of the company.
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