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YouTube launches news vlog

Can an outfit that is most useful perhaps for offering entertaining distractions at work drive forth the cause of citizen journalism? Ars Technica takes a skeptical view (h/t Romenesko):

Elbowing aside the media elite, YouTube wants to grab a seat at the anchor desk with a new channel dubbed "Citizen News." Harnessing the advantages of the burgeoning citizen journalism movement, YouTube aims to aggregate and capitalize on newsworthy content produced by an increasingly well-equipped user base. An official YouTube channel will give the world's John and Jane Does a bigger spotlight with which to illuminate stories not picked up by mainstream media, but big spotlights are hot; will YouTube be burned by linking its brand with citizen news?


Announced on YouTube's blog, Citizen News was inspired by all the news reporting, interviews, weekly reports, and untold story investigations already being posted across the site. YouTube wants to see more, though, as its stated goal is to become "a go-to destination for news on the web." Olivia, YouTube’s News Manager, is asking for feedback from users and citizen journalists already active on the site as to how Citizen News can better serve their interests.

Already the Citizen News channel has subscribed to over 70 of YouTube's citizen journalists who are reporting on various issues and niches. "Texascountryreporter," for example, covers "the backroads of Texas to find the people and places who make the Lone Star State one-of-a-kind." "TheRealNews" is a "global online video news network" with impressive production values, boasting "thousands of $10 donations" from users around the world.

Indeed, as ReadWriteWeb proclaims, "citizen journalism is going mainstream." Earlier this year, CNN launched its own citizen journalism effort with iReport, a site on which the network allows anyone to upload and discuss news-focused content from around the world. Submissions at CNN’s site are filtered by a panel of editors for content and accuracy, with around ten percent of all submissions actually getting published.

With two giants in their respective fields of old media (CNN) and new (YouTube) supporting the dynamic, up-and-coming realm of citizen journalism, the pitfalls of letting anyone report news beg to be examined. It is certainly a good thing that equipment and communication technologies are getting more advanced, cheaper, and accessible to a much broader worldwide audience. Reducing the news world’s barrier to entry can also be a benefit in the big picture, as Olivia proclaimed in her announcement that "no longer do you have to be a seasoned journalist or a paid commentator to make waves in the news. Everyday citizens are serving as reporters."

The signal-to-noise ratio and potential for bias and abuse are important issues in citizen journalism, just like they've always been for traditional media. An established network like CNN spends considerable money and personnel to filter the submissions at iReporter. It's likely that a site like YouTube—already rife with misinformation and unbridled bias in news-focused areas—will have to do something similar with this Citizen News initiative for it to have much value.

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