Citizen journalism: the need for curation and the success story of storyful

By H.W.

The first three months of 2011 haven’t exactly been quiet for global news organisations. The protests that began in Tunisia have spread all across the Arab world to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and even Syria, a place where any kind of anti-government action would have been unthinkable even a month ago. Add to this the biggest earthquake since records began in Japan, and the subsequent Tsunami which has so far claimed the lives of 11,000 people (and counting), and you have one of the most extraordinary annual quarters in the history of modern news.

It’s not only the fact that these stories are so huge, but that they are also incredibly fast-moving. As well as a lot of “business” for news organisations, this unique combination of global events has also provided opportunities for new outfits to take advantage of the current hunger for news.

Step forward Storyful, a web curation site which has this as its mission statement:

“Storyful’s golden rule is there is ALWAYS someone closer to the story. And in the last few months, we’ve worked with people at the heart of the action, capturing turning points in history in words, pictures and video.

Sometimes our sources are local journalists, amateur photographers, or filmmakers. But often the people with the best view of the action are citizens in the right place at the right time.

We believe that there’s a good chance that person is you.”

 

The storyful homepage, where you can click through to all of the day's biggest stories.

One of the most striking things about the way that events in Japan and the Middle East have played out in the media has been the prevalence of “citizen journalism” in so much of the coverage. More people than ever have the equipment (all you need is a decent camera phone) and the connectivity (a 3G phone) to record and share the events that are happening around them.

But, however good the videos and other content which citizen journalists are uploading to the net is, none of it really has an impact unless people get to watch it. That’s where Storyful comes in. Because they are not a traditional news organisation, they are able to focus 100 % on finding, and then curating the best stuff that has been posted online. And it’s not just about getting one viral video hit, and then putting their feet up for the day. Storyful tries to keep up with the story, and to gather the most important content on one news story all in one place. And that’s where it finds its niche. It is the fastest news organisation I have come across in terms of CURATING content that is already out there.

For example, if I’m following the events unfolding in Syria, I could do one of three things:

1) go to the website of a traditional news organisation, like the BBC . This would be the slowest, but most trustworthy way of getting the information I was looking for.

2) Go on twitter, and find results for Syria in realtime. If I wanted to find videos about Syria fastest, then this would be the best option. But the wealth of information and links on twitter can be overwhelming.

3) Go to Storyful and see what their latest content is. For me, this a great halfway house for people who want stories quicker than traditional news organisations can deliver them (because of the fact that they have more stringent verification procedures) and who also want someone else to do the hard work of finding the most recent popular virals on a particular subject.

I would seriously recommend going to Storyful and checking it out. It’s the best site I’ve found for keeping up with events in the Middle East, and it’s great at organising stories into different categories (e.g. Libya, Syria, Japan, Royal Wedding). The interface is really clean and simple, which makes it easy to take in the information.

If you’re not satisfied by reading their curated stories, you can also make your own. Go over to the Storyful community page, and you can start your own story, complete with tweets, youtube embeds and your own text.


Andrew Lansley – It’s a RAP!

I was astonished the other day to walk past my dad’s study and hear some hardcore rap beats pumping out of there. Now my dad is quite big on his music but I have never heard him listening to rap before. So I went inside to investigate and found him watching Loughborough rapper MC NxtGen’s video slating Andrew Lansley and his NHS reforms.

Now as a surgeon working in the NHS, it is a subject that is very important to my father but I still didn’t expect him to be watching a video such as this and enjoying it. I mean he could understand the quick flow of MC NxtGen and was left in stitches by his clever word play and well produced video.

MC NxtGen (real name Sean Donelly) has found himself a viral YouTube and Twitter celebrity after posting his video just over a week ago. Since then it has amassed over 150,000 views and seen Sean whose day job is as a binman featured in the Guardian and the BBC News website.

The song has it all, brilliant lyrics over a sample from one of my favourite songs, The House of the Rising Sun and a well shot, funny video. The rap features some great lines including, “The NHS is not for sale, you grey-haired manky codger!” with the hook repeating over again, “ Andrew Lansley, GREEDY, Andrew Lansley, TOSSER!” However what makes this rap so good is that NxtGen has done his research and knows his stuff.

Now as the state of the NHS is something that interests me, I have done a lot of research into it before for a documentary I made, but I found the way that NxtGen explained it in three minutes, was better than any politician or even NHS staff member managed in more than thirty when I spoke to them.

Take these lines for example, “So the budget of the PCTs, he wants to hand to the GPs / Oh please. Dumb geeks are gonna buy from any willing provider, / Get care from private companies.”

“These plans have been slammed by patient organizations/ Charities, unions, nursing and medical institutions/ The Royal College of GP’s even joined the attack/ Looked closely at the proposals/ and said they were crap.”

MC NxtGen

NxtGen has tapped into a deep well of feeling amongst the British people of uncertainty and wariness of these reforms. The idea for the rap actually came about because he has family and friends who hope to work in the NHS but are worried by the cuts. So in his own way NxtGen decided to do something about it, and to speak out and judging by the rapidly increasing number of viewers every day to his video, the comments left and his growing Facebook and Twitter pages it seems a lot of people agree with him.

Even Andrew Lansley himself couldn’t help but admire the 22 year old whilst still trying to defend his policies. The Health Secretary said, “We will never privatize the NHS but I’m impressed that he’s managed to get lyrics about GP commissioning into a rap.”

For me this video goes to show that video journalism can come in many different forms, our hands are not just tied by a strict news package type formula. MC NxtGen gives us his take on the story in an informative and entertaining way through the power of music accompanied with a video that would not look out of place on MTV.

In the rap world, when one rapper releases a song ‘dissing’ another then the other rapper usually releases his own diss record in response and the ensuing ‘beef’ can engulf the entire music industry – think Biggie and Tupac. So we all wait anxiously for MC Lansley’s musical retort.

Andrew Lansley being told somebody has beef with him

I think we may be waiting a while.

You can view MC NxtGen’s Facebook page here, and follow him on Twitter here. He is hoping for the Andrew Lansley Rap to be released on iTunes in the coming days.

Yianni Meleagros


Finding Stories for Online Video Journalism

Whatever your interests, you can use online video to cover pretty much whatever you like – whether you want to cover hard news or light entertainment. Here’s a few tips on how to find stories that you could shoot in order to make a video for online:

  • Talk To People:

Are there any local issues affecting you, your friends or your family? Maybe there’s a new parking scheme that is causing a stir in the neighbourhood, or there might be a new shop opening or closing in your street which residents are unhappy about.

Asking people around you what’s going on may throw up an issue or an event that you could make a video about.  Below is an example of a video I made about the student accommodation I live in and the problem of constant fire alarms being set off by students.

  • Use Social Media:

Social media sites are a great way of finding stories –

1) Twitter: Twitter is a great communications and search tool. You can search for tweets that relate to what you’re looking for – for instance, a local area or an event (you could search ‘Islington’). This would bring up search results of various twitter feeds. Some feeds are dedicated to news solely about a certain place which can be very useful if you are covering a ‘patch’. Using hash tags (#) by placing them in front of key words is another good way of finding information. For more detailed information on how to use Twitter to your advantage, see one of our earlier posts by Will Teddy on Twitter and its Role in Video Journalism. Below is a news package Will Teddy and I made after finding the story on Twitter.

2) Facebook: Similarly you can also use Facebook (as well as Twitter) as a communications tool between yourself and people involved with stories you might want to cover. By searching for a person, an event or an organization you may find there is a ‘page’ or ‘group’ dedicated to this subject.

3) Forums/Blogs: Online communities (like this one!) are sites serving localities or online communities usually dedicated to a particular subject or range of subjects. They are very useful for contacting like-minded people and accessing and sharing relevant information. It was on one of these sites that my colleague and I discovered a story about a library under threat of closure.

  • FOI requests: If you wanted information about a public service you can submit a Freedom of Information request. By law, the orgainsation is obliged to give you the information except in cases which may endanger national security. For instance, if you wanted to know how much your local council spends on hospitality or even on its Christmas party you could submit a request online. This can bring new information into the public domain which could be worth covering.
  • Events: Whilst they’re not a scoop, events are worth covering in their own right. For instance, you could cover a protest or a local concert. Below is a video about an event I covered with my colleague Jonross Swaby. We found an advert for a talent show being held by a mental health charity in aid of mental health month in a local newspaper.
  • Travel Blogs: Going on an expedition during your gap year? Going away with the kids this summer? Whatever you have planned, filming what you get up to when you travel can be a great way of getting footage and documenting the experience in the form of a video for online journalism. Below is an example of an informal video I made for online using footage shot by a friend during our time abroad on work placements.
  • Existing media news sites: Whilst any good journalist comes up with original stories, you can often find stories already covered in the press which you may be able to develop or look at from an angle not already covered. For instance, a story may be published about a new scheme where drivers can pay their parking by text – but the story doesn’t say how much the scheme is costing the local council. By finding out the financial implications you have developed the story in an original way and could cover it differently to the previous reporter. The BBC has a great page which gives links to all parts of the UK, as you can see from the screen shot below:
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Search for both national and local stories using the BBC's interactive map of the UK

If you click through from the map page onto a particular region, for example, London, you can access a list of external news sites that cover that same area. You can see form the screen shot below that it gives a comprehensive list of online media outlets including newspapers and radio stations.

List of External Online Media Outlets across the UK Provided by the BBC

  • Local Authorities: Whilst we mustn’t forget council’s in the UK are political bodies and often have an axe to grind, they can still be a great source of stories. Press releases are published online, and you can contact press officers to ask about particular stories or for information or for interviews with councillors. You can find an A to Z list of councils across the UK by going to the Direct.gov.uk website.

Good luck story hunting!

Natasha Malcolm-Brown


Should Newspapers be cutting back on their online video content?

According to a study of 100 US newspapers undertaken by the Associated Press, a large number of them are cutting back on video and video journalists. As the current financial climate continues to bite hard at newspapers, it is often the video that is first to go.

Kevin Roach, Director of US Broadcast News at AP led and the study and found that financial reasons were often the main factor in the decision to cutback but he wouldn’t disclose the specific findings of the study.

He is of the opinion that newspapers should stick with their online video content as he believes it provides an important part of editorial output. He also thinks that there are new opportunities emerging for these newspapers in how people consume their content, e.g. through social media and new devices such as tablets.

He suggests papers must publish breaking news of local interest quickly in order for their videos to be effective. With the change to the web that social media has brought, getting news up quickly is essential.

Below is Beet TV’s interview with Kevin Roach.

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/goRrgqDXZwI%5D

However as others have been cutting back, the Miami Herald has been reaping the rewards of increased investment in its video content. Last year, MiamiHerald.com saw about a 25 percent growth in video traffic, making it the second biggest traffic driver behind articles.

They found over a period of study of six years that the most popular videos were sports and breaking news. These were already strong points at the Herald but with further investment and improvement they were able to build up a loyal audience.

The Herald uploads on average 60 to 80 videos a month and has partnered with Miami TV stations including WSFL-TV and CBS 4 in Miami to try to extend its reach. They share content with WSFL and cross promote content with CBS 4 which helps to increase the site’s traffic. The Herald also posts many of its videos to YouTube where they can get thousands more hits than on MiamiHerald.com and thus further increase it’s reach.

So if more newspapers could follow the Herald’s example of investing more in video then perhaps they too would experience similar success and not have to cut back on a vital component of news.

Below is a video from the Miami Herald, which I believe illustrates well what they are trying to provide: breaking news of local interest. It also shows the advantage of using video over simply just print, seeing pictures of the dogs elicits more emotion in us and gets us to engage more fully with the story than just an article could.

Miami Dade Animal Services Centre

Yianni Meleagros


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.

 


Beet TV’s Online Video Journalism Summit

Just last month renowned online video blog Beet.TV hosted a summit on exploration into online video at the Washington Post. Beet TV focuses on the emergence of online video and its impact on industry and society and is generally recognized as the first business oriented video blog.

The panel at the summit included representatives from various respected news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, msnbc.com, The Associated Press, CNN.com, Yahoo, CBS.com and others. The summit focused on how these associations used their online video to best effect and how they encouraged more viewers and hits. Here are some of my picks of the best tips that these online video connoisseurs had to offer.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post believes it’s important to do all you can to engage new viewers. Whether it’s Twitter, video journalism or print articles, it all helps to build up your network. Cillizza also had a warning to politicians, now that online services such as Twitter and YouTube reach the same audience as traditional media, production levels must remain high.

Steve King, also of The Washington Post advises syndicating your video both on and offline in order to expand your audience. For example at the Washington Post, video content is posted on Yahoo! as well as their own site. He sees the future of the whole of the business of the Washington Post to be in delivering video content that is exclusive to the newspaper. For example during the 2010 US mid term elections, the Washington Post hosted an Election Day twittercast with Chris Cillizza delivering the latest news and views from the polls.

Ann Derry the editorial director of video and television for the New York Times says their tactic has always been to, “be organic with the journalism and have the video come out of the journalism we are doing.” She also believes that integration of video into online articles is vital for higher views.

Yahoo! Video expert, Anna Robertson, argued why not broadcasting live but showcasing shorter clips works better with the shorter attention spans of online viewers. Ann Derry agrees with this saying unless there is a compelling reason for the video to be live, it shouldn’t be.

Kevin Roach of The Associated Press has found raw video to be the most successful with younger viewers because it is new and different from their parent’s TV news. However this is does not mean abandon making your neatly edited news type packages just yet as Stokes Young of MSNBC.com says they have had higher views in more explanatory, scripted news videos.

The panel also had lots of tips on how to actually get your video watched online. Anna Robertson says social media is very important, especially including embed codes to stream inline on Facebook or Twitter and allowing for easy referrals (like “click-to-share” links and embeds). According to Kevin Roach, 40% of AP’s streams from YouTube come from embedded streams in social media networks. Also search is one of the most important factors including having as many tags as possible that are relevant in order to maximize your content’s reach.

Watching the summit certainly expanded my thought processes in regard to online video and its potentials. Why not check out the video of summit for yourself here.

And here is the second half of the summit:

From left to right, Ann Derry, The New York Times; Stokes Young, msnbc.com; Kevin Roach, The Associated Press; Mike Toppo, CNN.com; Andy Plesser, Beet.TV; Alex Werpin, TVNewser; Anna Robertson, Yahoo! Video; Jeff Whatcott, Brightcove; Mark Larkin, CBSnews.com and Mike Stephanovich, Reuters Insider.

By Yianni Meleagros


Twitter and its role in video journalism

Happy Birthday Twitter! It’s five years to the day since the site was born into the cyber world.

Despite having over 200 million users (compared to 400 million for Facebook), many people are still sceptical about the use, relevance and importance of Twitter.

I openly admit that I was a critic until a few months ago but now I find it a very useful journalistic tool.

So, in celebration of our 160-character friend’s fifth birthday, here are five ways in which Twitter can enhance a video journalist’s work…

1. Posting your own videos

Twitvid/Tweetmojo/Twitvideo. There are plenty of sites to choose from for sharing video via Twitter. It’s a quick and easy way to integrate a video into your tweet.

2. Storyfinding

This has perhaps been the most useful one for me so far. Obviously, this is not specific to video journalism, but it certainly offers a direct route to stories that haven’t been tapped into by the print media. Here’s a report that I filmed, having found the story though a twitter feed…

3. Directing web traffic to your site or channel.

Whether it be a personal website, a Vimeo channel or a Youtube account, Twitter is the ultimate tool when it comes to signposting people to your work. I recently set up my own website, put it out on a tweet and immediately got feedback and comments on the videos that I have made.

4. Creating a community.

In a recent interview that I did with David Dunkley-Gyimah, he told me that one of the great advantages of online video journalism is that it offers the chance to build a community around the stories that you produce. Rather than covering a story and then dropping and moving on to the next topic as tends to happen in the traditional broadcasting mould, the internet offers a platform for people to carry on discussing and contributing to a story/theme, long after it has been ‘aired’. And Twitter, is just one of many tools that you can use to harness this community, through the use of hashtags, etc.

There are numerous examples of this. Channel 4 has been doing this recently with great success. Take, for instance, tonight’s Dispatches. The programme was called ‘Train Journeys from Hell’. Whilst it was on air, they flashed up the hashtag ‘TrainPain’ and that got thousands of people involved. The programme aired at 8pm and by 9pm it was the top trending hashtag in the UK.

5. Live streaming

You can use sites such as Twitcam to link to live streams.

This is particularly good if you want to broadcast from a phone, webcam or something portable. If you’re shooting some great actuality or just want to put out an interview live and you want people to see it, this is the best way to get it seen at that very moment. The immediacy of Twitter is unparalleled.

Still not convinced? Then take a look at these Twitter stats from Business Zone

  • A year ago, people sent 50 million tweets a day. The average now is 140 million and on March 11, 2011, the tally was 177 million!
  • 572,000 new accounts were created on March 12, 2011; 460,000 new accounts were created daily, on average, in the past month!
  • Mobile users increased 182% in the past year!
  • 8 people worked at Twitter in January 2008. Today it’s 400!

Will Teddy