With Hurricane Irene wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard and bearing down on New York City, Reddit is stepping as a hub for citizen journalism—efforts to document news events, conducted by ordinary people.
Earlier today, Reddit’s staff set up a section of the site devoted to the hurricane, where redditors can write first-hand accounts, ask questions, and seek help. It’s called r/Irene and already has nearly a thousand readers.
Former Reddit admin Mik Schiraldi, now at Google, came up with the idea earlier today. He pitched it to his old colleagues, who thought it was a great idea and quickly created the section.
“I’ve been trying to follow along from California,” Schiraldi wrote in a post on Reddit’s official blog. “It’s frustrating, because the ‘person on the street’ information I’m looking for just isn’t showing up on mainstream news sites.”
He added: ““There are probably ten million of you in the path of the storm, and a good number are going to have tales to tell, warnings to share, and possibly even critical information.”
Redditors have already flooded r/Irene with content, from advice (don’t hook up a generator unless absolutely necessary — those carbon monoxide fumes don’t do a body good), to questions (“Can someone explain to me, like a 5-year-old, what exactly a hurricane is and why?”) to cell-phone pictures of waves crashing in Virginia and ominous black skies looming over Manhattan.
At the Daily Dot, we’ve taken to calling Reddit a social news site. But r/Irene shows how the site defies simple categorization. With r/Irene, redditors are as much makers of the news as they are consumers of it.
That doesn’t mean redditors should take the journalism side of things too seriously. Users vote up contributions, awarding them karma, or points—which might tempt citizen journalists to go to great lengths for a story.
Schiraldi warned readers in his blog post, “ Please don’t ignore evacuation warnings just to score Reddit karma.”
Image via NotionsCapital.com