LiveLeak – for citizen and video journalist!

LiveLeak is a video sharing website, that exists since October 2006, where users post and share videos. The videos uploaded to LiveLeak are to do with politics – mainly Middle Eastern affairs (Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran are their own category), current events and reality-based footage such as war scenes. The footages are often combined with citizen journalism, making this site brutally honest with its content. News reporters can use this site to bypass official statements and records and address the actual situation in the conflicted countries.

As honest as LiveLeaks may be, it often contains immense cruelty and violence shot by citizens. Under Your Say, on the site, video journalists in conflict share their experiences with the world. Very often these videos will raise heated debates between users. See a video on the Iranian protest movements documenting their experiences here.

Co-founder, Hayden Hewitt, has defended violent videos on the site by saying: “Look all this is happening, this is real life, this is going on, we’re going to show it.”

This video shows a protestor in Libya getting shot on the 15h of February.

LiveLeak also has a point system meant to motivate users to deliver positive contributions, where any kind of hate speech, propaganda or spam will lead to point subtraction or deletion.

LiveLeak shot to fame in 2007 when White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Former PM Tony Blair mentioned the site after it leaked the execution of Saddam Hussein. At first, politicians seemed worried that LiveLeak could be used as a tool of propaganda by terrorists but now they have embraced the site and even spread their own messages about the war in Iraq and other unrests since then.

This video shows the latest footage of Fukushima shot from a helicopter and was leaked to LiveLeak 4 hours ago.

If you want to share your online videos with LiveLeak you have to become a member. Although you will retain the rights to your videos the site can use your content for any purposes they like. Many of the videos posted on LiveLeak are used by news channels such as Channel 4.

Jil D.


New Left Media

New Left Media is a new generation news YouTube channel started by Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll. They are currently students at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and therefore a huge inspiration for me. Their news videos have a huge online following for many reasons that I can think of. They are extremely professional and objective when doing their interviews and update their channel on a regular basis. Their topics are always up to date and follow the issues concerning the US population.

Below are some of my favorite videos, the best one for me is the Sarah Palin book signing, where I actually laughed out loud…which hasn’t happened to me ever while watching news stories! At the same time I also understood what was going on and got to grasp the views of the public.

For the covering of the “Rally to Restore Sanity” called by for Jon Stewart on his show Whiteside and Stoll received over 126,540 hits on YouTube. The demonstrators expressed their concerns about the deterioration of state news and hyperbolic content of 24/7 news channels. However, when asked which news outlets they watch the general answer was Jon Stewart’s show – a comedy show as their primary news source or other partisan news shows such as the Daily Show.

Sarah Palin Book signing – interviews with supporters:

Again they only stayed for about 90 minutes to do these interviews and didn’t cherry pick their interviewees. They are real investigative journalists that go at a topic objectively.

Chase and Erick went to the March of Equality on October 11 to support full equality in all 50 states for the LGBT community. They interviewed Cleve Jones, the National Equality March Organiser, and members of the LGBT community on their views of Obama and the Human Rights Campaign.

Chase Whiteside also made an It gets better video (in reference to my earlier blog about the campaign) to fight bullying and hate at work and school places which has over 43,034 hits on YouTube.

Over 1,800 people gathered outside House Minority Leader John Boehner’s district office in West Chester Ohio to show him that there are many people in the US supporting the public health care option and Obama’s policies. This protest came after John Boehner publicly claimed that he didn’t know a single American who was for the public option.

Have you ever heard of New Left Media? Leave your comments below.

Jil D.

Interview: Raul Gallego Abellan on reporting wars and how technology is changing the role of a journalist

Raul Gallego Abellan is a video journalist from Spain currently employed by Associated Press. His work has led him around the world, between war zones, natural disaster sites and international award ceremonies.

LHG: Your website states that your first role in the industry was as a freelance in 1998. In what ways have you found that the expectations of independent video journalists have changed since then?

RGA: Technology is going through a big change in our profession. Equipment is more cheap so more people have access to cameras and can potentially become journalists, producers, filmmakers etc. But because there is a bigger market and bigger group of people ready to shoot, media companies are using this fact to devalue the conditions of our work. There are so many people willing to work as journalists that media companies are taking advantage and saying: look if you don’t take this offer I have hundreds of people knocking on my door willing to work for even cheaper.

But though there are more people with a laptop and a camera it doesn’t mean that quality is improving. Actually it’s getting worse. General quality in shooting, editing and even reporting is getting lower. There are stories that I see now on TV or online that, when I was starting out, would no way have been broadcast.

I love to work with just a little camera, a laptop and a satellite phone. That makes it so much easier for me to travel around. But working with a little camera is more difficult; there is less stability and you have to make a bigger effort to shoot properly, make sequences etc. than if you work with a big camera.

However there are now people doing great work with very cheap equipment. More people are able to produce something and show their talent and new ways of storytelling. Before, production was very expensive. Now, with less money but good quality and hard work you can do what before you had to spend big quantity of money and send a big crew on.

But I do feel that what is wrong is that the conditions of our work, salary, level and quality, etc., are decreasing in recent years.

Now, a freelancer has to be someone ready to do everything. Shoot, edit, report, write, take photos, tweet! I like to be a multi skilled person but now it’s getting too much. It’s evident that if you try to take photos, shoot video, edit, report, tweet, all at the same time, the quality will be not so good. Especially in daily news or breaking news, for example a text writer cannot take good photos if s/he doesn’t have experience and is using a little snapshot camera. What you do when something is happening in front of you? Take photos? Shoot video? Also, I think that if you shoot video with cameras like HD SLR and then you do a frame grab you are killing photography.

LHG: You’ve been covering the unrest in Libya for Associated Press and have entered many conflict zones for your work in the past. How do you prepare yourself for entering a hostile territory?

RGA: I don’t have a set way to prepare myself. I always try to think positive but at the same time be aware of things that could happen; all the options, all the possibilities that I might face. I believe that motivation is also very important. People have to know why they are going to cover conflict. For me it works if you have the intention to show the reality of the conflict, the suffering, and if you see journalism as a tool that means things will at least be registered. We as journalists can not create much change in the world but at least we can try to or try to expose something that is wrong. If somebody that has a rich life in the EU or the US sees one of my stories and decides to give a donation to an NGO or just becomes more aware of how lucky s/he is to live where s/he lives it’s kind of worth it. Sometimes a camera in a conflict can give a little hope to the person that is suffering just to let them talk in front of the camera. Sometimes a strong image can mobilise a society in big or small groups or individually.

Every war reporter has different reasons for covering wars. And it’s worth noting that covering war doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be constantly on the front line. People are bored of the bang bang images. They are so bombarded with them that they don’t care anymore or are not touched by one or two minutes of fighting, explosions or images of people injured or dying in the hospital. An example of this is that some people remember more of an interview with a Libyan rebel fighter I filmed in the few days before he started fighting, when he was living in Denver Colorado selling donuts, than any of my fighting images where I was risking my life for it.

But the last uprisings in Tunis, Egypt, Libya etc. shows how important the media still is and how important journalists are in mobilising people despite, at the same time, mass media becoming a little like a circus with correspondents just explaining how difficult and dangerous it is for them to work there than actually what is going on on the ground.

LHG: What would you say is the most memorable project you’ve worked on to date?

RGA: I have lots of stories in mind. I cannot say one was more important or more memorable than the others. Covering a historic moment is incredible. When you are recording with the camera and you are thinking, this is history and I am experiencing it in a front row seat. Also, when your story helps someone, that is the best feeling as a cameraman or journalist as it’s when you feel that your work is really worth it.

Last year the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) recognised online news for the first time, and awarded Raul the Edward R Murrow News Series prize for his three part video essay A Marine’s Diary, about the lives of US marines in Afghanistan.

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Laura Heighton-Ginns

The VJ Movement

The VJ movement is a website that brings together over 150 professional video journalists and cartoonists from over 100 countries contributing their own perspective on a wide variety of stories. In this way they the user can be as well informed as possible in order to form their own opinion on the story. As they say on their website, “We as journalists believe that there is more than one truth.”

They encourage users to post ideas and pitch stories but it is not citizen journalism. Users can help set the agenda but the items are all produced by professional journalists. By having so many different contributors they aim to provoke discussion and thus discover even more new opinions and perspectives on different topics.

They aim to produce videos that while being separate stories in their own right are linked together on a wider level. By allowing users to pitch their own ideas they ensure that the citizen and journalists are in a constant dialogue, something that is not really replicated anywhere else with the same level of success.

Moreover they have set up the VJ Foundation which is a non-profit organization that exists to support local journalists, encourage high quality journalism across the world and enhance international reporting. The foundation also provides support and training to journalists in regions where freedom of the press is under pressure. It also strives to increase awareness of the importance of the role of journalism in society.

For me what makes this website so special is the opportunity to get your ideas made into actual projects. For example, back in October a story was pitched about the situation with regards to homosexuality in Ecuador. Ecuador was the first country in the Americas to recognize same-sex relationships. However at the same time there are various clinics that claim ‘cure’ homosexuality. I found this piece really interesting and it really opened my eyes to the ostracization towards homosexuals that is still felt in many parts of the world. You can see the video below.

As mentioned earlier, the VJ movement attempts to link together separate stories to highlight similar injustices throughout the world. Linked but separate from the Ecuador story is one about how homosexuals in Israel are bypassing the strict religious laws by marrying abroad. Although there is a thriving gay community in the liberal city of Tel Aviv, the majority of the rest of the country is much less open-minded. In 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages abroad must be legally recognized. Despite much opposition from the government this verdict has yet to be overturned thus allowing homosexuals in Israel to live the lifestyle they desire and remain in their homeland.

As we have seen the VJ movement is doing such good work throughout the world publicizing stories with the help of their users that may have otherwise slipped under the radar. On top of this their foundation puts into action the principles and morals that they adhere to. Lets all hope the VJ movement keeps on rolling for many years to come.

Yianni Meleagros

Accessing online video through your TV: why cable companies are fighting the spread of online video journalism

For most Americans (and probably most Europeans if we’re honest) before 2011 Al Jazeera was a little known foreign news network. Best known for showing videos of westerners being held hostage by terrifying religious zealots, few western viewers thought of the network a source of good journalism.

But for many American viewers, the Egyptian revolution changed all that. Al Jazeera had journalists reporting live from Cairo while major US networks such as CNN and Fox News were still scrambling to get their people out to Egypt.

In the USA Al-Jazeera English was not available on cable channels causing many viewers to switch to their computers as a source of news on the uprising. However, the preference for viewing news on a TV, rather than a computer screen seemed to be an inevitable hurdle which Al-Jazeera couldn’t overcome without the support of US cable networks.

But this is where Roku came in…

This technology allowed viewers to watch Al-Jazeera English directly through a conventional TV.  Roku also offers Hulu, Netflix and other online which offer a lot of the mainstream content US viewers could normally only find through cable networks. For a while it looked like online video could take the lead as online and television fused into one medium.

But the big cable networks aren’t going down without a fight.

The established companies are doing their best to slow down independent online TV providers as far as possible while they perfect their own ‘TV Everywhere’ technology. And since the cable providers control the same cables which provide internet service they still have the upper hand when it comes to restricting online video content.

And the crucial difference between TV Everywhere and providers like Roku – for TV Everywhere the viewer is still dependent on the monthly subscription to their cable operator.

The battle between online TV providers and big cable networks isn’t some clash between the forces of good and evil – both are just private companies competing to make a profit after all!

But as long as big cable holds too much power and the executives know that people won’t make the switch from a TV to a computer monitor, news agencies like Al-Jazeera will struggle to find an audience in the west. And as long as the established news agencies know that they don’t have to face any new competition there’s no motive for them to improve the quality of the news they provide.

By Alan O’Doherty

VBS.TV: online video journalism for the younger generation

VBS.TV is an online TV network that streams a variety of news, music, pop culture and current affairs videos. It was launched in 2007 by New York based media conglomerate Vice, in collaboration with MTV. The site is co-managed by creative director Spike Jonze, the Oscar nominated filmmaker whose credits include Being John Malkovich.

This online TV network is unusual. It targets a younger demographic of 18-24 year olds and offers more diverse content in terms of news and current affairs. It attempts to and succeeds in offering an alternative to the ‘dumbed down’ mainstream televisual programming so often focussed on celebrity culture. The site capitalises on far lower set-up costs and the knowledge that online plays such an important role in the lives of those fitting into this demographic. Confident that many of the younger generation are bored with Heat, Nuts and Paris Hilton, the site produces videos that offer a deeper look into important issues, formed as a result of their counter-culture philosophy.

VBS.TV has gained a strong following and industry recognition. VBS.TV online videos are featured on various other sites including YouTube and Vimeo. VBS online video documentaries have also been featured on CNN – the media organisation said they were ‘intrigued’ by the journalism and unique reporting approach of VBS. One video featured by CNN is an online video documentary about a forest at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan that has attracted hundreds to go there to commit suicide, and explores the pressures on people in modern Japan.

The videos have a transparent approach to them where the viewer is taken on every step of the reporting process. The site is wholly advertiser-funded and content is free to access. Many contributors and freelancers produce videos for the site. Whilst you’ll still find stories about sex, drugs and rock and roll, you’ll also find reports on the war on terror, and North Korean refugees. Below are some of my top pics:

  • A half hour documentary on the student protests over rising tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA entitled Teenage Riot. You can watch the video on VBS.TV by using this link: Teenage Riot.
  • A video which typifies what VBS is about called Heavy Metal in Baghdad, which is a unique documentary about the fortunes of Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only heavy metal band which formed during the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule. They were only allowed to play if they included a pro-Saddam song in each set. The film provides an insight into the life of young people in modern day Iraq, and gives a fresh angle on a major world news story unexplored by the mainstream press.
  • Swansea Love Story – this is a moving and saddening documentary about heroin addiction filmed in the vein of gritty realism. Reporter involvement (RI) is extremely limited, even at times when the viewer is screaming at the reporter to intervene. The production of the piece achieved interesting and thought provoking shots by filming contrasting sequences of the main subjects with wide shots of the desolate Swansea landscape and also with shots of the local church choir which adds another layer to the film. You can watch part on on YouTube below:

Natasha Malcolm-Brown

Online debate: the new freedom of expression or an extremist playground?

The political leaders debates in the run-up to the 2010 UK general election were a huge ratings success and gained praise from commentators. At least part of this success lies in the preparation that went into them – the weeks of planning and bargaining between television executives, political spin doctors and broadcast regulators. Ultimately the finished product was a well structured and polished piece of journalism, with clear rules and boundaries as to what could be discussed and a format that left the public satisfied they had a better idea of who to vote for.

But this isn’t so in the world of Youtube.

The video sharing website has frequently been used as a host for online debate and, as with most online interaction, the typical bounds of social convention no longer seem to apply. The gloves come off and charged topics that people wouldn’t normally feel comfortable debating are fair game:

–         Religion

–         Extreme politics

–         Evolution vs Creationism

–         Vegetarianism/veganism

It’s all fair game. And all of them are discussed without the tact and manners that we’d normally expect in the real world.

On one hand we might see this as a welcome change – a chance for people to get to the heart of an issue without feeling bound in for fear of offending someone. But can this freedom go too far? Particularly when there are no controls on who joins the debate.

Take the case of VenomFangx (banned from Youtube at the time of writing).

A staunch critic of Evolution, Atheism and, pretty much any spiritual position besides his own, his feud with another youtuber ‘Thunderf00t’ became well known among the youtube community. However, a heated debate spilled over into dangerous territory when, in 2007 Venomfangx attempted to take legal action against Thunderf00t using the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (a piece of US legislation).

The action failed, but the argument continued to sour, with Venomfangx threatening to release Thunderf00t’s personal details and releasing an increasingly bizarre series of videos attacking Thunderf00t. Users began to speculate that Venomfangx was not entirely of sound mind, a suspicion which seemed to be confirmed when his parents shut down his account and put up a message explaining what they had done and why.

This would have been the end of it, were it not for various accounts started by Venomfangx under false names, the continuation of his original account by one of his supporters and dozens, if not hundreds of responses and mirrors of deleted videos of the original arguments. The debate may have cooled, but it seems like it’s far from over.

This wouldn’t seem significant if we could write Venomfangx off as one eccentric loner whose actions didn’t have wide ranging consequences. After all, until I mentioned him in this post, how many of you had even heard of him?

But he isn’t alone. There are many others who get involved in these discussions and some whose actions are far more sinister.

Where do we draw the line between freedom of expression and open debate and regulating these discussions to protect the vulnerable in an arena where normal social rules do not seem to apply?

By Alan O’Doherty