YouTube is embracing eyewitness footage as part of a new push into video journalism.
In the last 10 years, we’ve witnessed some of the most important news stories unfold online, from the Green Revolution, Arab Spring and protests in Ferguson, to the Charlie Hebdo attacks and earthquake in Nepal. Social media and raw videos have become vital resources for eyewitnesses, the public and the media – something that YouTube is keenly aware of.
Indeed, more than 5 million hours of news video are watched on YouTube every day, a trend that is only set to grow, as the Internet turns anyone with a camera on their smartphone into a potential news reporter. The launch of Periscope and Meerkat earlier this year immediately demonstrated the role that mobile video can play, as users broadcast live streams of a collapsing building New York.
For YouTube, which is already facing competition in the video game live-streaming stakes from Twitch, that event appears to have acted as a wake-up call: after announcing YouTube Gaming to take on Twitch, it has launched three new initiatives to promote and develop its own position as a hub of first-person documentary footage.
The first is YouTube Newswire, which will be a curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day. Crucially, these will be verified by Storyful, a social news agency YouTube has worked with since 2011’s Tahrir Square protests.
As the name suggests, it will provide a feed to the media, building upon its established popularity as a source for embedded materials.
“We hope to provide journalists with an invaluable resource to discover news video around major events, and to highlight eyewitness video that offers new perspectives on important news stories. The Newswire will feature global and regional feeds that surface the most relevant videos in different parts of the world,” explains Olivia Ma, Head of Strategy and Operations, News Lab at Google.
The second is First Draft Coalition, which will bring together a group of thought leaders and pioneers in social media journalism to create educational resources on how to verify eyewitness media and the ethics of using it news reporting.
This group will consist of experts from Eyewitness Media Hub, Storyful, Bellingcat, First Look Media’s Reported.ly, Meedan, Emergent, SAM Desk, and Verification Junkie.
“The Coalition will develop and program a new site for verification and ethics training, tools, research, and, most importantly, case studies around the biggest news stories of the moment,” adds Ma. This will launch in the autumn.
Finally, YouTube will also introduce WITNESS Media Lab, a new approach to tackling human rights issues through the analysis of citizen video.
“Over the past decade, YouTube has provided a platform for people to share eyewitness video of human rights atrocities around the world,” Ma comments.
“The WITNESS Media Lab – in collaboration with innovators in the technology, advocacy and journalism fields – will produce a series of in-depth projects that focus on human rights struggles as seen from the perspective of those who live, witness, and experience them.”
The Lab’s first project will explore the impact of bystander video in bringing about justice in police brutality cases in the United States.
“We’re proud of the role that YouTube and its creators have and continue to play in the ever-changing, ever-expanding news and information ecosystem, and we hope that these new projects will empower more journalists to use powerful eyewitness video easily and responsibly,” Ma concludes.