Why Charities are Embracing Online Video Journalism

It’s not just the media that’s embracing cheaper forms of broadcasting video journalism content. There is a whole wave of new age charities embracing not only social media but also online video journalism, capitalising on the latest, cheapest broadcast platform.

Non-profit organizations have quickly cottoned onto the social media trend as a hugely beneficial tool for communicating their cause to anyone connected to the internet which is estimated to be 1,407,724,920 people or around 21% of the world’s population.

Not only have charity campaigns flooded social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube, these organizations have increasingly embraced the use of online video journalism to advertise their campaigns in an extremely cost effective way.

Case Study 1: Oxfam

Oxfam has a section of its website devoted to campaign videos. Oxfam also has dedicated YouTube channels – Oxfam America and Oxfam Great Britain. Oxfam says that by letting people ‘see it, share it and change it’, they can help fight poverty and injustice by spreading the word using new media platforms. The channels feature videos about many of the charity’s different operations around the world. Check out this video below featuring a report on coffee giant Starbucks and its economic relationship with coffee farmers in Africa.

Case Study 2: Unicef

Unicef has a section of its website totally dedicated to blogs about their different campaigns. They also have a section just for Audio and Video. And of course they have a YouTube channel where Unicef TV is broadcast to its millions of viewers. Check out this report below on the increasing number of families crossing the border into Tunisia to escape the current crisis in Libya.

Case Study 3: Greenpeace

Greenpeace has a section of its website which showcases campaign promos, animations and video blogs. The organisation encourages other groups or individuals to spread the videos by embedding them on other websites. The channel has thousands of subscribers and has had over 13,850,000 channels views.

The video below is about a Chinese photographer Lu Guang. He documented the oil spill at the city of Dalian for Greenpeace. His pictures depict the death of firefighter Zhang Liang and won him a World Press Photo award in 2011. The online videos Greenpeace produces are of high quality both technically and journalistically, often covering very newsworthy stories from the corners of the globe.



Given that large charities such as the NSPCC spends millions on advertising on TV, it’s more than likely they will increasingly rely on the internet as a cheaper, faster and in some cases more accessibly media platform.


Natasha Malcolm-Brown


The impact of Video Journalism in the Arab uprisings: part 2: snuff movies

By Hugo Williams

In the previous post on video journalism from the Arab uprisings, I concentrated on the positive impact that online video has had in providing evidence, both to protesters and the wider world, about abuses that were carried out by different governments during demonstrations.

If information is always KING, then there would be no case to answer for putting every single last video into the public domain. But Wikileaks has demonstrated that things are not always so simple; some information can cause harm (e.g. the documents released by Wikileaks which named people in Afghanistan who had helped the U.S. army, thus posing a credible threat to their lives). But many argue that as long as the benefit of releasing the information outweighs the harm it does, then there’s no problem.

One thing that has struck me as I’ve followed the Arab revolution online, is the visceral nature of much so much of the content that goes up. Watching official news channels like the BBC and Sky feels like a PG-rated experience compared to what you are exposed to online. There is no watershed on the internet, and that is reflected in much of the videos that I have watched since the uprisings began.

The clip I showed in the first part of this blog report was of a police van deliberately driving through a crowd of protesters in Cairo, running over several of them as it went. At first an online video, it was quickly picked up by news organisations and played in their main reports of the day’s events. At the time I felt like the footage was very shocking, and perhaps inappropriate even. But it was nothing compared to the videos I then started watching.

I have deliberately not embedded these links so that anyone reading this blog will not be involuntarily exposed to the shocking footage: But if you do click through, ask yourself why? Is it because you feel it’s important to understand the opression and violence that people in the Arab world have had to face in their bid for a free society? Or is it because you’re the same as every human being, with that innate fascination with death, that desire to rubberneck when you go past the scene of a serious car accident, just to see what it’s like? Or are you like me, so desensitised to the whole thing, that you don’t really think twice about clicking through? It’s just more information, right?

Two dead pro-Gadaffi mercenaries, according to rebels in Benghazi,  Libya lying side by side on the ground    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV0ebDPQrYk

An unarmed protester in Bahrain, shouting “God is great” in Arabic. He is then shot by a sniper.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZle1_Xjn_k&skipcontrinter=1

A young protestor in Latikia, Syria, face and neck covered in blood. Unclear if he’s alive or dead.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3RiFkdSZ5A


One final thought: if you were a 12 year-old child and googled Latikia, the first video result that comes up on the google search page, without any filters, is the final one on my list.

I realise the importance of posting videos to show the violence that people in the Middle East, but surely Google and YouTube should think up some method by which they can filter out videos and images of dead people from basic searches. This kind of content should only become accessible if you are really looking for it, not easily embeddable on a public forum like twitter.

If and when all this does come to an end, Google and YouTube may want to do a bit of spring cleaning. Otherwise the internet is in danger of becoming one massive snuff video vault.


Self- reporting for self-defence: How Anonymous uses video journalism to protect themselves:

The online group ‘Anonymous’ has been credited with various online campaigns from the mischievous to the controversial to the bizarre. Their activities range from releasing spoilers on the plot of the Harry Potter novels to bringing down major credit card websites as a response to what they perceive as abuses of power. They have been called cyberterrorists, pranksters, and perhaps most famously as ‘hackers on steroids’

However they are perhaps best known for their campaigns against the Church of Scientology. This movement, known as Project Chanology has seen Anonymous members leave the online world and take to the streets to protest against the Church –which they argue is a dangerous cult.

Footage of protests is hardly unusual (we need only think back to the student riots) but what makes these videos different is the fact that they have been filmed by the protestors themselves both to publicise their campaign and, they argue, to protect themselves from the Church of Scientology.

The Church is known to film its critics without their permission – a phenomenon witnessed first-hand by John Sweeney when filming a Panorama episode on the group.

The ‘Fair-Game’ policy to which Sweeney refers supposedly advises Scientologists to use extreme methods to oppose critics including long-term harassment.

For Anonymous the most effective way to combat the Church is to use their own methods against them – in this case, filming Scientology agents who arrive at the demonstrations and attempt to film unmasked protestors.

And for now, these techniques seem to work. As a controversial movement for which media management is an extremely high priority, the Church is highly sensitive to bad press.

Protest videos that show actions against a corrupt Government are inherently limited by the regime’s power to suppress access to the internet. The Church of Scientology has no such countermeasure.

By using simple and cheap recording equipment and the internet as a platform Anonymous are able to reach a vast audience with any evidence they have of wrongdoing on the part of the Church.

I have previously written on the shortcomings of online video as a revolutionary tool in the Middle East. There, the power of the regime to control the online world inevitably limits the power of online activism. But in the case of Project Chanology where the state imposes little or no restriction on the protestors online campaigns, it seems that the pen, and its descendant the computer, is still mightier than the sword.

By Alan O’Doherty

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

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

Kevin Sites’ odyssey in online video journalism and revealing the atrocities of war

Kevin Sites in Nepal, South East Asia

Image sourced from unitedweblog.files.wordpress.com

Kevin Sites helped innovate online video journalism. He is known as the ‘grandaddy’ of backpack journalists. He was one of the first to pave the way for independent, intrepid reporters carrying portable technology on their backs to single-handedly shoot, write, edit and transmit multimedia reports from some of the world’s most dangerous places.

Sites began his career as a reporter/producer for various American news outlets including ABC, NBC and CNN. Sites’ work provoked controversy in 2004 when he filmed a US marine shooting a wounded Iraqi insurgent in the head in a Falluja mosque. Whilst some were critical of Sites’ decision to film the shooting, he was praised by journalists for exposing the true realities of war through online video journalism.

Below is YouTube footage of Sites’ video on the Faluja mosque shooting. Warning – graphic content, viewer discretion advised.

In 2005, Sites left the TV networks and switched to online journalism. He was hired by Yahoo! as its first Yahoo! News correspondent and embarked on a year-long journey, travelling to all the major war zones around the world, reporting for his website ‘Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone’. According to his website his mission was “to cover every armed conflict in the world within one year, and in doing so to provide a clear idea of the combatants, victims, causes, and costs of each of these struggles – and their global impact.” This mission was all the more impressive given Sites worked alone. Although this was only six years ago, Sites’ expedition epitomises the trend away from well-resourced camera and production crews, and instead towards multi-skilled one-man-bands in the world of news and current affairs. His project was unique in the way it presented stories through mixed media including photographs, videos and written reports.

Sites’ ‘Hot Zone’ project saw him visit nearly every region of the world including the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, Central Asia, South America and Eastern Europe. His reports helped galvanise the notion of the modern media correspondent without a crew to support them. The real essence of Sites’ work was his focus on the reality of war zones and the stories undiscovered by mainstream media. During his trip, he spent time with Maoist rebels in Nepal during its long-running civil war – which finally resulted in a revolution and the installation of a democratically elected government, and a new constitution in 2006.

Sites photographing a Maoist guerrilla in Kailali, Western Nepal. The anti-government protestors – largely made up of the People’s Liberation Army – had many women enlisted, and were thought of by their male colleagues as some of the fiercest fighters.

Image sourced from asiamedia.ucla.edu

Below is a YouTube clip of Sites’ video made in Nepal and Kashmir. Warning – graphic content, viewer discretion advised.

Whilst his videos can be gruesome and saddening, he is widely recognised as a brave journalist willing to reveal the true atrocities of war. Sites’ contribution to online video journalism and to the exposure of the realities of war was recognised widely within the profession. In 2005 he won the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism and was nominated for an Emmy. In 2006 the LA Press Club awarded him with the esteemed Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism, and in 2007 Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the ‘Web Celeb 25’, calling him one of  “the biggest, brightest and most influential people on the web.” The same year, he won the Webby Award for coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

Sites grew up in Ohio and currently lives in California. He continues to work as a solo-journalist or ‘SoJo’.

Natasha Malcolm-Brown