YouTube Direct Enlists Citizen Journalists

November 18, 2009Sparxoo

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

YouTube announced Tuesday that it will be making it easier for citizen journalists to submit news and events to established news organizations. YouTube Direct bridges the gap between new (YouTube) and traditional media by empowering consumers with an accessible tool to submit video while providing established media a rich resource for breaking news footage.

Although established news organizations have their own new submission tools (CNN’s iReport, ABC’s iCaught, Fox’s uReport and MSNBC’s FirstPerson), YouTube Direct wants to funnel their incredible amount of relevant, user-generated content to these news organizations.

YouTube understands the relationship between citizen journalists and established media. It is the role of citizen journalists to capture the breaking news as it happens and established media to follow-up with investigative reporting.

Take example from the amateur footage of the landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River last January or the dramatic Iranian elections in June. Those scenes were captured by citizen journalists and reporters followed numerous leads to “get the real story.” Your “Joe flipcamera” is not going to interview Sully Sullenberger or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to get further perspective.

After the announcement of Direct, YouTube faced harsh criticism from bloggers — raising the question, why not pay the citizen journalists? “News organizations pay their reporters. They pay for photos.” writes the Christian Science Monitor. “They pay freelancers who pitch stories to them. Why should this type of video be treated any differently?”

Proponents of Direct tout the move as a way to gain broader exposure for citizen journalists. In some cases, amateurs are paid handsomely for their content (think 9/11 footage); however, with an event like the Iranian elections, citizens are recording for the greater good, not a pay check.

News organizations do not have the resources to have camera crews on-site for every event. They must rely on citizen journalists like those in Iran and NYC to capture live footage. It is then their task to analyze and solicit the news across TV and the web.

Established media are facing stiff competition from video sharing sites, such as YouTube, that overshadow established media’s user-base. YouTube Direct could be the vehicle that establishes a symbiotic relationship (new media needs analysis and traditional media needs live footage) between new and traditional media.