The blog post "Crowdsourcing the Craigslist Killer" by Edward Delaney appeared in my Google Alert for crowdsourcing this morning and the title sucked me in (nicely done, Edward).
The online outlets of the two major media publications in Boston, the Boston Globe's boston.com and bostonherald.com are encouraging people to come forward and tell their stories about interactions they've had with accused "Craigslist killer" Philip Markoff. Given the rising popularity of the iCitizen model of journalism, it's not surprising that media outlets are now looking for sources in this way, hoping people will be motivated either by altruism or the possibility of "getting published".
Out of 41 responses so far on the Herald's site, only a handful offer anything more than criticism for the Herald itself for asking such a question. Is it even possible that something substantive could come from this kind of outreach? Does anyone care that his dad was your dentist? Even worse, could this kind of unsubstantiated "testimony" ("the main reason why people didn't like him is because he was so nasty to people...") compromise Markoff's ability to receive a fair trial?
With all of the recent news about the demise of traditional journalism, it makes sense that media outlets would need to start getting creative in order to survive, but is it a good idea to offer something like this up to anyone and everyone and present it as "news"? It's an interesting idea, but one that needs refinement in order to appear anything but sensationalist. Of course, if it leads to more comments like this one, at least it has some entertainment value:
"I remember meeting Philip when we were competing in Miramar to see who was the best pilot. He was teamed up with Slider and he told me I could be his wingman. But then Goose got killed and I bailed out of the fight with the Russians but came back... No, wait - that wasn't me... that was Top Gun. I don't know Philip..."