Scoopt – a Picture Agency for the Public

A few weeks back I saw an article in an online news source about a new
organisation called “Scoopt“. It’s a picture news agency for the general public. With all the digital cameras and camera phones around nowadays, these guys came up with the bright idea of setting up an agency so that anything newsworthy snapped by a passer-by could find a market. The concept was proven by the London bombings although the idea was in development well before that and they actually delayed the launch, in case it looked as though they were “cashing in” on the tragedy.

You have to be a pre-registered member to send them pictures so I signed up – after all you never know when you might be on hand to catch something newsworthy and personally, I almost always carry a camera.

To cut a long story short, last week I took a couple of pictures that I thought might be worthy of a local newspaper. I uploaded them to Scoopt who, to cut the story even shorter, sold them to the Bristol Evening Post. (The text of the story they accompanied is here.)

I became engaged in a few emails and phone calls with some of the people at Scoopt and during this process received the impression I was very much “one of the first” to be published and maybe a bit of a guinea pig. It has since transpired I am in fact their first published contributor, which is obviously quite fun!

On Saturday, I received an email saying Wired Magazine is preparing a feature on “Public Journalism” – a new phrase recently coined to cover phenomena such as this. They wanted to reprint the pictures and speak with a published Scoopt contributor and would I do an interview? Yes! I have also spoken to a journalist at The Press Gazette which is doing something similar. I’ll publish links if, as and when the articles appear.

So, apart from the obvious fun aspects for me personally as a result of this sudden diversion, is there anything to be learned from this? I think so.

Unless news reports are coming from a well-reported war zone or a tragedy like the recent happenings in New Orleans, news doesn’t happen in front of reporters – or newspaper cameramen; it happens in front of people like you and me. Would I take personal risks to get a picture? No, I’m not paid to do that and if I happen to be near a bank raid with sawn-off shotguns being waved around I’ll be first behind the nearest brick wall! Would I take a newsworthy picture if I happened to come across something in my daily life? Of course I would and I did.

10 years ago, the number of cameras on the average busy high street at any one time was certainly in single digits and probably low ones at that – right down to zero. Nowadays, with camera phones and cheap, good quality digital cameras (like mine) being ‘top-pocketable’, there are undoubtedly dozens if not hundreds. The public will undoubtedly become at least partially the ‘local’ news photographers of tomorrow and as time goes on, will certainly claim a share of national daily front page pictures, web news site images and so on, so Scoopt is very timely.

If there’s a moral to this story it’s simple. Sign up to Scoopt, carry your digital camera, and should something happen, send the pictures in. Our newspapers, websites and TV reports will be the richer for it – and so of course, will you be.