The Guardian’s Kate Bulkley recently wrote a piece on the proliferation of citizen journalism, whether it can be trusted, how it might augment traditional documentary, and how it has unique marketing value on social networks. An excerpt:
But current affairs is clearly benefiting from citizen journalism and video testimony from ordinary citizens. “Social networks are opening up whole new vistas for documentary filmmakers,” enthuses Chris Shaw, editorial director ITN Productions. “You can make the most amazing films using content from social networks, sometimes with the permission and sometimes without the permission of the people who shot them.”
Shaw says that ITN’s documentary, Syria’s Torture Machine, for Channel 4, drew on about 30,000 clips that have been uploaded on various social network sites, including “trophy videos” from Syrian military torturers and footage from local families and citizens caught up in demonstrations. “I think there is a sense that objective journalism is not the same as trawling social networks for citizen reportage and imagery, but there are two problems with that view,” says Shaw. “First there are places like Syria where journalists haven’t been able to go and second there is an extraordinary resource on social networks for current affairs, even though we have to take extraordinary caution to verify what we use.”
In Shaw’s view, the way forward is to mix “citizen video” with professionally shot footage to come up with a more rounded picture. “It’s a whole new force of amazing, raw and close-to-the action footage and there is a lot more of it,” says Shaw. “In the old days we would find one image of someone’s feet being beaten with a cable, but now we get 20 of them. Although it is disturbing, we can begin to see patterns and to build a better picture of the scale of abuse – and that has got to be a good thing for the film.”
FJP: Another byproduct of citizen journalism is the proliferation of tools and tutorials to help people get better equipped with the craft. We posted about one a few months ago.
Bonus: For further reading, and a class on the matter, see this screencast from a course Michael taught at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He writes:
Are citizen journalists more agile than their professional counterparts, often breaking news before the big boys have had time to react?
The answer is quantitative and anecdotal rather than qualitative, and looks in part on how people use social tools such as Twitter and Facebook to report on the world around them. (Keep reading)