Eyewitness news is an old phenomenon for local television stations: a citizen’s video recording of a gas station robbery, or some such sensational event, becomes free “news” for the station, relieving them of the burden of journalism.

Today, the increasing popularity of citizen journalism is blurring the line that once separated the gatekeepers of current events knowledge (journalists) from their well-informed, but ultimately passive brethren (readers).

While traditionally exclusive news companies like the Washington Post, whose reporters have privileged access to important sources, are slow to admit citizen journalists into their ranks, social media sites don’t ask for press credentials.

The Oxford Social Media Convention, which took place in the U.K. on Friday, asked how social networking is changing the face of news media.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter define huge audiences which news media see as their potential readership. John Kelly, a journalist for the Washington Post, says that while the Huffington Post doesn’t compete with the Washington Post in terms of journalism, defined as judgment, analysis and explanation, it does compete in terms of readers.

Thoughts from the Oxford Social Media Convention can be found, naturally, on Twitter at #oxsmc09. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

RossIGrant Politicians fail to understand they can bypass mainstream media #oxsmc09

clk_ to what extent will social media future be defined by what China does with internet? #oxsmc09

scilib RT @lorcanD: RT @britishlibrary: 'The corporate blog is the only scalable way of talking to the people who talk about us'#oxsmc09

kate_day Qu: Will communication improve as we communicate visually rather than with text? Kara Swisher says it's all about video #oxsmc09

adriana872 @DarenBBC hah, just saw [the Oxford Social Media Convention] was today. Nothing on agenda about data & silos, just usual social media pontification. So 2006! :P #Oxsmc09

Jane_Howitt RT @caffeinebomb@bertil_hatt Facebook groups let people associate with a cause easily - rarely do they return. Gesture politics. #oxsmc09