Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 94 - Are we all "Citizen Journalists" today?

Watch out world! YouTube just made it even easier for anyone with a camera phone to turn anyone's behavior -- be it mundane or sensational -- into news.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the world's top provider of Internet video has now launched YouTube Direct, where TV and online news editors can obtain video from the so-called "citizen journalists" -- even requesting that specific video be shot by amateur attention seekers.

Part of this effort may be aimed at gaining celebrity footage, but not entirely, of course. Many news outlets will be seeking disaster footage, for example, or maybe a snippet of some rowdy behavior at the next political town hall.

Any news organization seeking footage can announce it in a variety of ways, including the use of call-out videos posted at YouTube. When a YouTube user has video he or she thinks will interest the mainstream media, YouTube Direct will make it easier for professional editors, producers and paid journalists to contact them.

The head of news and politics at YouTube says that reputable news organizations will want to verify any content they use, so this is not an invitation for everyone to grab their camera phones and catch friends and neighbors in embarrassing moments.

YouTube Direct isn't a play for greater earnings -- for YouTube or its users, according to an official spokesperson. There is no payment for video provided by citizens. The incentive for people to upload great video (hopefully) is the recognition the citizen reporters may receive through airtime on legitimate news. Currently testing the service are: the Huffington Post, NPR, Politico, the San Francisco Chronicle and at least two Boston TV stations.

In a YouTube blog post, links are provided to examples of newsworthy user-generated video: presidential candidate George Allen's "Macaca" reference, video of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in China, and a teacher screaming then slapping an autistic student.

With print (newspapers) continuing to falter and online media rising to the forefront, everyone appears to be a journalist these days. As a journalism and mass communications grad student, I hope I can remain open minded. There is a big difference between capturing a moment on video for upload to YouTube, and investigating, researching and writing genuinely informative news for publication. The professional journalist is still viable in the modern world, and perhaps more valuable than ever. We are simply experiencing growing pains as our industry changes. It appears the Information Era is turning into the "Always On" Era.

Is your camera phone ready? Lights, camera....action!

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, YouTube.

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