Posts Tagged Youtube

Japan’s earthquake and the power of the citizen journalist

Emily Fairbairn The world has stood transfixed as the tragic events in Japan unfold.  All over the globe people were able to see instantly the scale of the devastation, thanks largely to the amount of content being posted online by survivors.

Tweets from Tokyo hit 1,200 per minute as the tsunami swept the Japanese coastline, and YouTube is flooded with shakily shot footage of the disaster. In fact, so many videos have been uploaded that the site is collating them on its CitizenTube channel.

It is at times like these that the power of the citizen journalist is reaffirmed.  Only those at the scene of the disaster can truly tell the story, and thanks to the explosion of social media and new technology they can tell it better than ever. The last devastating earthquake to hit Japan, in 1995, was nowhere near as well documented. Now the world sees the destruction instantly and graphically, and what a sight it is.

Hopefully the shocking images and testimonials pouring out of Japan will help mobilise the aid effort as quickly as possible. In the mean time, the sheer scale of videos, blogs and tweets serve as a reminder of how much journalism has benefited from the rise of user generated content. How awful that it takes a disaster like this to do so.

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War through a soldier’s lens

Since October, The Daily Telegraph has been posting a couple of videos every month from soldiers on a six month tour of Helmand with the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Although the clips clearly undergo some editing at the hands of the Telegraph, they are otherwise entirely shot by three men from the ranks: Corporal Donald McMaster, Sergeant Billy Carnegie and Private Peter McQuaid.

The insight they provide into the daily lives of troops on the ground is superb; because it is the soldiers themselves shooting the footage, the conversations witnessed are those between mates – bantering and larking around, bereft of the sanitised PR conversations normal journalists might elicit. The viewer has a real sense of what daily life is like, of how they get through the day.

Televised by the protagonists

If Vietnam was the first televised war, then the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are surely the first conflicts to be televised by the protagonists themselves. Although not all videos are as interesting or coherent as those from the Scots, a quick search on YouTube turns up hundreds of videos of IED explosions, firefights and tributes to fallen comrades. Typing Afghanistan gives you 485,000 results, while Iraq gives you 779,000.

The videos seem to fit the formula of any other YouTube clip: unexpected things happening to ordinary people. Except you are not watching a teenager from the Midwest falling off his skateboard, but a booby trap which might have taken countless lives.

The voices in these videos – often disembodied, off-camera – are not those of sanitised war heroes, but of young men, pumped with mutual machismo and adrenaline. It is clear that some get a kick out of the precarious situation in which they find themselves, but it is clear that the bravado evident in many clips is a way of coping with such extremes. Many videos posted, particularly the tributes, are an effort both to come to terms with and provide a snapshot of the realities of war; its mundanity, its camaraderie and its brutality.

From a journalistic perspective, no one video can provide you with a complete, coherent sense of what life is like on the frontline, but taking the legion of them together reminds you that war is not really about strategy or death tolls, it is about the squaddies at the sharp end of the action. It would be wrong to assume that an ordinary soldier posts a video without any agenda, but the video he uploads makes the wars about people and personalities, not politics.

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Revealing Youtube user identity

Patrick Smith

With Youtube this week ordered to hand over the identity of a suspected stalker, will all posters now be held accountable for their ill-thought-out ramblings?

The judge at a New York court ruled recently that the identity of a person posting abusive, stalkerish videos and comments on Youtube had to be revealed, so that legal action could be taken against them.

While this case is about harassment and not libel, it’s bound to open up a can of worms around defamation too. I don’t know about you, but when I post something on a site I haven’t always considered the legal repercussions, and I certainly don’t have a libel lawyer looking over my shoulder.
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