YouTube is Cool, But it's not News

Several years ago, a news agency was charged and fined for having fabricated a video, showing it later as a supporting part of a story. They needed an SUV to overturn and couldn’t get authentic video of it, so they set something up to show their point.

While there were plenty of cases of SUV’s rolling over, there was nothing convenient or handy for the news to impact their story with visually.

It was discovered soon after the video aired that it was not real or representative of any facts. It was set up and used to make a story look good. Really, really good. Other media outlets, and the public, didn’t take kindly.

Fast forward to now.

There’s a growing habit of using amateur submitted video from cell phones, pocket cams and other devices uploaded to YouTube, to support news stories. In many cases the video IS the story.

Not so long ago, it was a reporters dream to be sent to a place of turmoil to get the facts, get footage and report on location. The 1985 Mexico City Earthquake, Even Katrina of 2005 became a hotbed of fired up emotional on site journalism; the stuff awards are made for.

Maybe on location work is still a private dream of a good reporter, but it’s no longer the practice of the news agency to send anyone.

Much of the flooding in Australia was reported “local armchair style” using whatever video could be grabbed from Australian News agencies, and then largely padded with YouTube video, presumably taken by locals and uploaded. No first hand accounts. No interviews. No facts to go with the video stream.

So who is checking these videos out for authenticity?

Do the news agencies all suddenly have a tech standing by to make sure none of this is “created” or fabricated by budding directors? (or better yet by people like me just hoping the news takes the bait) If they do have such techs, they neglect to mention it in order to help legitimize the choice to use freebie amateur video in place of actual journalism.

That it bothers me to see Media slide down this hill is miniscule compared to the ramifications of being caught running video, as news, that was fabricated. “We didn’t know” is no excuse for a news agency, their JOB is to find the facts, and their job is to know.

I’m all for having cheery news segments that show the latest kitty pulling funny faces on YouTube, but the trend toward treating it as a repository of fact, is outright scary.

30 Responses

  1. Mark D.
    Mark D. January 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    Great story, I recall the SUV incident. I agree, youtube is fun but isn’t good for news and fact finding.

  2. Sean
    Sean January 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm |

    I love how Canada AM interlaces half their content with crap we all see on the internet. I too notice a scary trend that the real journalist is going the way of the dinosaur. its sad that the producers of almost any news show choose to talk about gossip, hear-say and outsourced video so much that the real issues, stories and global events are not adequately covered.
    Maybe the next news ‘Story’ will be about “Sexual Harassment, PANDA!”

  3. Richard
    Richard January 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    Thanks for some quality points there.

  4. budgeteer
    budgeteer January 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm |

    I’m glad I checked back. I also have several facebook accounts, it just works out that way. I think in the US people just love to have idols and stars, and right now they are falling all over this. Next year or two, it will be a new internet media darling.

  5. Brian
    Brian January 28, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    I am a big fan of youtube, I use it a lot. But I do see the concern, half the time I am not sure if what I am seeing is real or made up. You would need to be very careful as trusted press to just use anything.

  6. Cheryl
    Cheryl January 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm |

    i dont even have cable, i just use youtube and other services that offer free access to news and entertainment. so it’s really important to use a lot of sources, that way you can get facts from all sides and measure out your own thoughts based on that.

  7. Christien
    Christien January 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm |

    I like that anyone can report on anything thanks to the internet, but it’s scary that anyone can say pretty much anything too. So it’s important to hold traditional news agencies to the same code of ethics they came into the fold with.

  8. Bennet
    Bennet February 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    Here in the south there is a lot less of that I think, but we’re catching up. i do notice more of the world affairs are being accompanied by cell phone footage or stuff stashed on youtube. I hope the general population is ultimately capable.

  9. Trevor
    Trevor February 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm |

    I’m glad someone is getting footage out there!

  10. Sarah
    Sarah February 1, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    But the point IS that what footage we are seeing may not even be real (Trevor). What is the point of having footage if it may or may not be accurate? Im with Jo, it’s fun to see the latest cat and dog video, but I don’t want my news scrounged up there.

  11. Trevor
    Trevor February 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    I see what you mean.

  12. Megan
    Megan March 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    Hard not to agree with that logic. Actually I’m tired of any news shows using Youtube as stories. I can go look there myself. I can’t go look at Libya…

  13. Chris A.
    Chris A. March 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    It’s time someone noticed (out loud) that news is getting lazy. Thank you.

  14. sharon
    sharon March 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm |

    I don’t have time to go online so sometimes i like that they show the most popular stuff on the news. But I guess they could make a special section so people understand its not hard hitting stuff they chased down.

  15. Stew Alken
    Stew Alken March 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm |

    I love this blog, what a great sense of humor you’ve applied to these topics. It makes for such a great read. Very Jon Stewart, but in print. Loved all the articles so far but especially this one and the Facebook one.

  16. Candice
    Candice March 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Nice work! Looking forward to more, there sure is plenty to write about hahaha.

  17. Douglas
    Douglas March 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm |

    Well said, it’s alarming how often one sees the professional news make use of amateur contributions. I hope this is not a sign of how things will progress.

  18. Annabelle K
    Annabelle K March 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    I like youtube, i post a lot of videos there but i sure don’t look at it as serious or a way to get reliable information. That sort of makes me wonder why any news show does.

  19. newjofan
    newjofan March 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm |

    Oh yah the SUV, that was back in the 90’s wasn’t it? So much unreliable info is shoved in our faces these days. And back then just ONE made the country mad.

  20. Wickie-impedia
    Wickie-impedia March 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    Recent examples from Egypt abound. Scenes of people fleeing and scrambling to get out of the way of something with a North American voice over attributing it to a time, place and event. Our part as viewers is to keep a healthy dose of skepticism nearby.

  21. JoCool
    JoCool March 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    Nicely put. With any news shows mandate being “to have more viewers” one has to constantly be on standby for bending of reality to suit the embellishment.

  22. Wanda K
    Wanda K March 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm |

    I’m tired of seeing so much youtube crap on TV. What a cop out, if I want to see youtube I would surf over. I chose the TV and what do I get? It’s goofy.

  23. Barry
    Barry March 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm |

    Spot on. Nice way to lay it all out too, bit of humor.

  24. Sue and Anthony
    Sue and Anthony March 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    This is great, what a gas. All your topics so far have been covered with the same comedic style. Keep it up.

  25. Cory
    Cory May 3, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    You seems to be an expert in this field, Great articles and keep up the great work, my buddy recommended me it.

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  28. Jakayla
    Jakayla July 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    You’re a real deep thinker. Thanks!

  29. Henery H.
    Henery H. July 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    Nice Blog – Excellent information

  30. Frederick
    Frederick September 4, 2011 at 11:21 am |

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