Citizen journalism has taken the world by storm and threatened to topple the stronghold of traditional news media, but NBC News has taken a step to incorporate eyewitness accounts into its news coverage — by buying Stringwire, a Web service that will enable live video to be streamed to the broadcaster, the New York Times reports (hat-tip The Verge).

How Stringwire works: it scours the Twitter messages of those who witness a news event and sends a Twitter post to them, asking them to click a link and point their camera at what they are seeing. The NYT says that the service can start streaming live video to NBC without any special app.

Vivian Schiller, the chief digital officer for NBC News, told the NYT: “Wherever you see a swarm of eyewitnesses on Twitter, that’s the sweet spot for Stringwire.”

Schiller said that the video submissions sent by eyewitnesses will be vetted just like any other material that NBC News uses, which could probably help to strengthen the quality of news coverage (as in many cases, citizen journalism can end up being less than credible with the lack of fact-checking, and less than useful if there is no context provided).

Basically, NBC News is tapping on live video, streamed right into its control rooms from the mobile devices of eyewitnesses, to form the basis of next-generation news coverage.

This makes a lot of sense considering that citizen journalism has been thrust into the limelight recently, especially with the Boston Marathon bombing, which Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon described in a blog post as “the first big interactive news story… (with) a veritable deluge of streams, in a world where the news has become a hard-to-navigate rapids at the best of times.” Salmon notes that the aftermath of the bombing displayed how trained journalists and editors steered their way through the massive amount of information as they strove to only publish the pieces of information that were accurate.

If NBC News plays its cards right with the purchase of Stringwire, it could be a huge boost to both citizen journalism and traditional news outlets, as trained professionals apply their judgment to the slew of reports on the ground — getting a lot more real-time coverage but also making sure that these are accurate.

NBC News isn’t the first news outlet to deepen its partnership with user-generated content. In June this year, the Associated Press (AP) bought a minority share in Bambuser, the mobile-based service that helps mobilize citizen journalists, as it sought to “strengthen” its sourcing of live video news and eyewitness reporting.

Headline image via Flickr / Edgar Zuniga Jr