CNN’s ratings boosted by CJs

Lately CNN’s ratings have been in the ditch – often in last place against its cable news rivals. But the ratings shot up when CNN used on-the-scene citizen reporters during the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, according to The New York Times. 

CNN’s ratings jumped more than 400 percent and brought the cable news channel 2.2 million viewers on the first day of the disaster - beating Fox News for the first time in memory by a couple of hundred thousand viewers and trouncing MSNBC’s meager 558,000 viewers. CNN even came close to beating Fox News in the primetime slot (8-11 p.m.).

What made the difference? The visible difference was that CNN used a substantial number of citizen reports uploaded through its iReport portal.

It was clear to me as I flipped back and forth between Fox and CNN that CNN was using far more video from citizen journalists than Fox News.

My wife and I found it far more riveting to watch the citizen reports – most of which were without commentary - than it was to listen to over-energized anchors report nearly the same thing that was reported in the previous half-hour.

CNN is now taking its relationship with more than 700,000 iReporters around the world a step further.

Recently it announced a new format called Open Stories. This feature threads together the variety of citizen reports made on any given event. It links together video, photos, updates and comments from citizen journalists to create a multifaceted account of a single story.

The experiment has just begun and you should check it out at

The media is changing and citizen journalists are leading the way.

Woo! Woo!

Ron Ross is the co-author of “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” and the co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists.