Guardian News & Media, the Guardian Media Group division responsible for publishing Guardian.co.uk and Guardiannews.com in the US, has announced a new platform enabling the public to submit content directly to Guardian journalists.

GuardianWitness has been launched in partnership with UK mobile operator EE, and lets users share videos, pictures and text directly with the Guardian’s editorial team, as well as peruse contributions from other GuardianWitness users.

Though it’s launched in partnership with EE, it seems this is purely a branding/sponsorship exercise, as it’s available to anyone on any mobile network.

How it works

You can access the app via the Web, but there’s also native incarnations for Android and iOS. To contribute content to GuardianWitness, you need to create an account, either using your existing Guardian credentials, or through your Facebook and Twitter details.

The Guardian actually posts ‘assignments’, inviting users to post content based on themes – for example, when Britain experiences unseasonably bad weather. Editors set a range of assignments each week, covering news, sport, culture and life and style.

a3 520x424 The Guardians new GuardianWitness app opens up reporting to the masses
Photos and videos will constitute a large part of this, particularly for users out and about on the streets with their smartphones.

Selected submissions could be featured on the Guardian website or also in the Guardian and Observer newspapers, while video submissions could be added to the GuardianWitness YouTube channel.

b1 520x425 The Guardians new GuardianWitness app opens up reporting to the masses

The apps also lend themselves well to big breaking news stories, where Guardian and Observer journalists simply can’t cover the sheer scale of it on their own.

However, if you don’t fancy one of the assignments, and there’s nothing big going on in your neck of the woods, you can also simply submit a story, which constitutes an ‘open’ assignment.

For the Guardian, encouraging the public to submit their content via dedicated apps is a great move, and serves to formalize the growing shift towards user-generated content. It transforms anyone into a roving reporter, giving them direct access to a major news brand. Surely it’s only a matter of time before more big-brand news outlets follow suit, including the BBC.

“At the Guardian we have a long history of getting our readers involved in our journalism,” says Joanna Geary, the Guardian’s social and communities editor.

“In the last few years alone our readers have helped us to review MPs’ expenses documents, follow the UK riots, gain real-time insights into the Arab Spring as events in the Middle East unfolded and challenge the government’s employment schemes,” she continues. “GuardianWitness will further reinforce our recognition that journalism is now a two-way conversation and will open up our site as we never have before.”

GuardianWitness follows other digital projects such as N0tice, which we’ve previously noted has real potential to take news reporting, and news gathering, in new directions. It’s an online community noticeboard, upon which news, details of events, and local special offers can be posted for other users. In fact, it’s this very same technology that powers the GuardianWitness platform.

In November last year, N0tice was given a live-music mapping tool, which displayed fans’ tweets and Instagram snaps.

With its latest project, the Guardian has a potentially powerful tool at its disposal – both from a news-gathering perspective, and also a cost-saving standpoint. Although user-submitted content still has to be vetted, it essentially gives them access to free content on tap.

We wonder if it’ll consider introducing payments for stories that end up being used? Maybe best not holding your breath for that one.

Meanwhile, check out the official promo video below.

GuardianWitness

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