Category Archives: Mass Media

The Responsibility of UGC- The Curious Case of Charlie Sheen

The power of User Generated Content has recently been highlighted with the case of Charlie Sheen.

The actor Charlie Sheen made history when he opened Twitter account, amassing over 1 million followers in 24 hours, setting a new record.

And why such a following over such a short period of time? Well it was a response to the seeming mental breakdown of the actor. Sheen’s breakdown since being fired by the producers of Two and a Half Men have been captured in his own uploaded YouTube videos. The ‘Sheen’s Corner’ videos along with his other video rants seemed to expose his erratic behaviour and have become internet hits.

Such was the intense popularity of these videos that at the time of writing this blog that his interview with the ABC news channel in which he announced he was ‘bi-winning‘ as opposed to bi-polar it has been viewed 8,375,801 times.

This is the interview below:

Views on Sheen’s behaviour have ranged from judgmental to the celebratory but what his case demonstrates is the power of UGC.

As a result of his UGC output and the popularity of them, Sheen has announced he is going on tour, called: ‘My Violent Torpedo of Truth: Defeat is Not An Option‘. According to Perez Hilton, the gossip blogger, the shows sold out in under ten minutes.

In financial terms Sheen’s video blogs and Twitter have brought him a tour that is estimated will make him $7 million. That’s about equal to four episodes of his old show, “Two and a Half Men.”

Sheen’s activities have been the cause of much concern in the press, with increasing speculation of his mental health state. His self-published blogs that show his questionable mental health have provoked many people to suggest that authorities should intervene.

In the case of Charlie Sheen, his behaviour has led to considerable financial gain. However it does raise the question the responsibility of the public in reaction to UGC such as blog posts.

As UGC contributors we also have the responsibility of what we publish and the reactions they inspire. Charlie Sheen’s UGC output made him international news, a seemingly constant feature in the news reports as he published video after video, Tweet after Tweet. We may question the content but we cannot question the prominent role of UGC and its value in public interest cases.

By Vanessa Holland

POLL: Do YOU like or trust UGC when used in OUR news?

Ok so over the last few months we have brought you loads of interviews with the ‘big-wigs’ of UGC and News organisations. Now we want to know what YOU our loyal readers and lovers of online journalism think…

In case this is your first time here get yourself up to speed by what we mean by User Generated Content.

A great new post coming just vote in these two polls…ALSO if you have anything else to add please either let us know on our twitter @generatedby user Or comment down below!!! Thanks

and….

Reporting Revolutions: Is video UGC killing off traditional reporters and cameraman?

Since the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and onwards our TV screens have been filled with images of the Arab uprisings, from Egypt to Jordan to Bahrain to Libya and increasingly to Yemen. But what has really struck a chord when looking at the reports is the way that UGC has been used or hasn’t been used.

This video on youtube was used in a channel 4 news broadcast ( but CNN have loaded this version onto youtube). It shows an Egyptian police van running over civilians. This is the power of UGC. In a world where everyone has a mobile phone, every dark deed can be captured whatever the restrictions on journalists, and the light can be shone on truths that would have otherwise been missed.

UGC also presents a problem for the reporters on the ground, who are trying to navigate their way through the protests and find stories which bring the issue alive. In the ‘age of information’ editors back in London, New York, Doha or wherever can see everything from all kinds of sources before the reporter can. Editors can direct reporters to include shots, or UGC or information not gathered on the ground themselves. This prescriptive top down reporting negates the role traditional of a reporter and instead makes them more of a curator or compiler of information. Jon Snow has written about this very issue this week in PORT magazine.

“Where once I was one pair of eyes witnessing a story and sending my account back to London, I am now charged with retrieving the work of many pairs of eyes and putting together an apparently holistic account of an event. We call this “sausage machine telly”. In the competitive multiplatform age in which we live, this age will not last long. Why not? Because it is neither distinctive, nor is it particularly interesting.
A big problem with sausage machine telly is that it spawns sausage machine reporters. In too many instances, reporters are no longer easily distinguished from one another. The sausage system is not
breeding or maturing new talent to take over the airwaves when we are gone.”

This ‘sausage machine telly’ is exemplified here in an ITN report from Libya. Except it isn’t…as it explains foreign journalists are banned from trouble spots (unlike Eygpt) and mobile phone networks and the Internet have been cut so the report relies solely on UGC and a voiceover to tell the story.

I’m not saying that UGC isn’t both compelling and useful but we must be careful how we use it. The role of a reporter is an important one, they are trained to find stories on the ground at short notice and to bring a human element to the news. UGC can be very useful in places such as Libya because of the restrictions placed on journalists. UGC can provide the pictures from even the most closed off parts of the world…the problem is how we verify it and interpret the images.

Here is a report from Sky’s Alex Crawford RTS Journalist of the year who got into Zawiyah in Libya and filmed this report.

It is all the more powerful for a trained reporter putting the story together and automatically trustworthy for it and exactly the sort of journalism that Jon Snow is praising in this account of his work in Haiti.

“We were so cut off from one another on the ground that we could not share pictures. Everything I transmitted we researched, retrieved, shot, edited, and beamed back to London ourselves. Only the local satellite dishes worked, dependent on their own generators and fuel – the satellite paths to the outside world were almost the only elements the earthquake had not reached. News desks knew instantly the massive pressure we were under and left us alone. After we’d sent our reports they would bask in their novelty, pain and exclusivity.”

Traditional journalists and cameramen are still very important as you can see with the difference between ITN’s and Sky’s reports. However UGC is a fantastic addition to a reporters toolbox, but one that must be used in addition to solid reporting not in place of it.

James Glynn

A User Generated alternative to My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Savvy Chavvy explained

At the moment there are some 300,000 gypsy travellers in the UK. They have been brought into the public eye by the Channel 4 hit show ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’. Many however have criticised the show for stereotyping the traveller community.

A couple of years ago before BFGW hit small screens nationwide Nathalie McDermott started Savvy Chavvy an online forum for the traveller community. Having talked to and met people in the community who had experienced many kinds of discrimination and stigmatisation, On Road Media felt it was high time they had a platform to express themselves.

Nathalie explains that on Facebook and other social networking sites the travellers are sent a lot of abuse, stereotyping, and racist commentary.

#BFGW is often a trending subject on Twitter these days…

Twitter screen show bfgw

Savvy Chavvy which actually means ‘young person’ in the traveller community is a place where young ‘gypsies’ generate their own content about their own community.

Nathalie criticised BFGW saying that “C4 says it is shining a light on a community” but actually it is only looking at a tiny part of the society. This causes a skewed interpretation of what life as a traveller is really like. According to her many feel that the show is embarrassing.

Blogs and social networks where people in communities can contribute their own information and experiences may be able to counter the single view. Platforms like this as well as Twitter and Facebook can also be excellent tools for journalists looking for the real people behind the stories, and for generating stories in themselves.

Finally Nathalie told us that it’s important that journalists get to grips with how to build networks online. This is because it’s an invaluable and extensive tool for finding and building networks of contacts and stories. Paul Bradshaw is also a great advocate of building a social community online. You can read more about ‘community strategies‘ on his website.

As a closing comment she said that as journalists we cannot put off learning the essentials of online journalism for any longer. Young journalists may be worst affected by this as well. The first thing employers do these days before taking someone on is to ‘google them’. According to Nathalie if there’s nothing online about you, chances are you’re much less likely to bag the job… so we say get online!!

Here’s the interview with Nathalie:

This is an example of a video from Savvy Chavvy:

This post also show how anyone can generate content for online without lots of expensive equipment. The interview with Nathalie was recorded on a smart phone! Users generate that content!

By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm

UGC holds world leaders accountable – YouTube’s World View

’Tis the season to hold world leaders accountable through User Generated Content (UGC), and I’m not just talking about the current uprisings against dictators in the Middle East. Our very own David Cameron has been quizzed by Joe public on YouTube’s World View:

Al Jazeera’s Kamahl Santamaria was the host. He drew attention to the World View interviews breaking down the distinction between professional journalists and users, by describing the Q&A with Cameron as a a “special collaborative interview… between us and you.”

Over 7, 000 questions were put to the PM after YouTube invited people to send in questions on both foreign and domestic affairs via video and text. Seeing the videos of people asking questions throughout the interview emphasised the prominence of UGC.

In being broadcast on the internet, the world has access to this interview. If it had just been shown on a national broadcaster, it would have reached a smaller number of people.

The comment facilities and number of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ accompanying the video are more examples of UGC, and give some indication of how people felt about the interview.

The World View series shows the use of UGC to reach the most powerful people – Barack Obama was interviewed before Cameron. You might even call it an Internet revolution.

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter

Algeria and the flow of words

On the 1st February, we wrote on here about revolutions and the use of Twitter, Facebook and other sites that allow User Generated Content. New information has come to light today identifying Algeria as the latest Middle Eastern country to have had its social networking sites closed down.

According to Mashable (an extremely useful website for journalists who are techy) as well as the Telegraph, the Algerian Government has actually been shutting down individual Facebook sites and closing internet servers and providers.

It’s laughable. I mean, you only have to look at Twitter to see that the message from Mashable has already been retweeted 774 times since the article was written 33 minutes ago and has been liked by 179 people on facebook. As I am sat following the Twitter feeds as I write this, 23 new retweets have emerged.

In Egypt, before President Mubarak was forced to stand down, the Government successfully managed to close down 88% of all Egyptian internet servers. But they’re not the only ones. China, Iran, Thailand and Tunisia have also done the same thing in times of unrest within their respective countries.

This raw footage shows the intensity of the Algerian protests and is first hand user-generated content. Not all broadcasters can afford journalists in every country at every time and therefore independently contributed content for the internet is extremely valuable. The world should be entitled to see what they want to see.

It seems to me as though try as you may to stop people getting on UGC sites and social networking sites, word and cause is strong and will spread. You cannot stop it. Algeria, amongst other nations attempting to stop the flow of independently generated content, is fighting a losing battle.
By Linzi Kinghorn

Reporting Revolutions: Are we too reliant on Twitter, Facebook and other UGC?

Photo: Maggie Osama via Flickr - Creative Commons License

Egypt has been dominating the headlines and trending on twitter for the last week. The latest in the series of so called ‘twitter revolutions’ that have brought change from Moldova to Iran to Tunisia and is now in the land of the Pharoahs.

But are we overestimating the impact of Twitter and Facebook? Also as journalists as we too reliant on tweets coming through from hard to reach places?

Firstly, Twitter and Facebook don’t bring about or even inspire revolutions, they aren’t out there on the streets egging on protestors. Social Media helps people to shout a little louder and it’s interesting to see that governments are pretty keen to shut them down or block them off (Iran tried and Eygpt plain severed the Internet). But I’m pretty sure that the tens of people that have self-immolated, and the hundreds of thousands that have protested across North Africa these last weeks didn’t do it for the tweets. But as a genuine protest against their autocratic governments based on long term greviances, excacerbated by rising food prices and unemployment.

While Twitter is very useful for real time updates from rapidly emerging situations – how much can we trust what information is put out there?

During the Iranian revolutions when foreign journalists weren’t allowed to enter the country Twitter became one of the key sources of information for foreign news services. But who are we to trust? In his latest book ‘The Net Delusion’ Evgeny Morozov says that twitter and facebook are actually not the ‘freer’ of people but can instead be used to covertly spread disinformation and tighten government control.

So if governments are sometimes using Twitter to further their own aims and severing or shutting down the internet during protests who exactly is getting this information onto the Internet? Blogs, twitter, facebook and youtube are all ablaze with new updates and startling videos.

Yet western journalists who couldn’t reach or didn’t bother to reach people on the ground in Iran, just scrolled down the English tweets searching for #mubarak #egypt or #iranelection and getting whatever info there was. It just seems like lazy journalism.

I accept that Twitter and Facebook are useful for mobilising the diaspora of a nation that is under going rapid political change as well as rasing the international profile of their movement. It just doesn’t seem like it is the best way to report on these events after all wouldn’t most people involved be tweeting in Farsi or Arabic?

**Since posting it turns out that google have introduced a voice-to-twitter service to help Egyptians to continue tweets during the protests.

Everybody has a story to tell… yours could be a top 10 most viewed YouTube video!

Everybody has a story to tell and without User Generated Content, in the form of YouTube, we may never have known there is a taxi driver that sings exactly like Michael Jackson:

Traditional broadcast media is restricted firstly because of limited air time and secondly, because they have to cater to their audiences be it for radio, TV or online. Therefore, they have to prioritise when deciding on what information to relay to the public.

Sometimes, the most insignificant stories/news/facts can be the most entertaining like our pal there who can sing exactly like MJ. UGC makes the insignificant a phenomenon.

If you look at the top 10 most viewed YouTube videos of 2010 as featured on thenextweb.com, they are a mix of content created by professionals such as the Twilight trailer (number eight), and content created by users like this man getting  extremely excited about seeing a double rainbow:

The number one most watched video is inspired by news broadcast by mainstream media. Indeed, it is an autotuned  rendition of interviewee Antoine Dobson’s words to a broadcaster about a sex attacker operating in his area. This song created more of a stir than the original news story, entering the music charts and getting nearly 50 million views. It was produced by YouTube partner Auto-Tune the News also known as the Gregory Brothers, a family of musicians. Does its prominence show the triumph of UGC?

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter

Does User Generated Content have the trust factor?


Throughout this year’s X Factor series, there have been leaks on Twitter claiming to know how the public have voted before the show’s host Dermot O’Leary reveals all. A user known as abigail88 is the source of the X Factor leaks, which she first broadcast on a Digital Spy forum. He/She has since set up the inside_man Twitter feed to share the leaks. The fact that these have been retweeted 100+ times suggests that people are taking note of User Generated Content (UGC) as a source of information.

But when I asked some people if they trusted user generated content for news and current affairs, many said they prefer newspapers and big broadcasters to smaller start ups. These people include student journalist Jess Parker, who frequently retweets the X Factor leaks. I asked her the extent to which she trusts UGC:

Here are some tips on how to encourage more people to trust your blog.

People turning to traditional media for their news isn’t that surprising considering that it:

– has established itself as the main way for people to be kept informed

– is monitored by bodies like the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom meaning it should be reliable (or people may sue.)

– ranks highly in Google search

But with a knowledgable person/expert behind hyperlocal blogs and specialist websites, mainstream media may find competition in the form of user generated content. After all, there’s a reason that Guido Fawkes, Paul Bradshaw and Perez Hilton have a formidable online presence, and that’s because people trust them to provide a service – political scoops, online know-how and celebrity gossip respectively.

It’ll be interesting to see whether user generated content becomes part of mainstream media – some of you may argue it already has what with the big titles’ use of YouTube and Twitter. Look no further than celebrity and lifestyle magazine channel Grazia TV, and David Dimbleby urging viewers to tweet #bbcqt throughout political heavyweight programme Question Time, for examples of established media brands utilising YouTube and Twitter for their own purposes.

Anyway, it’s The X Factor final tonight – let’s see if there are any leaks tonight and whether they speak the truth… they’ve been pretty good so far!

UPDATE: I interviewed Jess Parker again to ask her whether she trusted UGC more when it came to serious news in light of the protests in the Middle East. These have been dominating the news agenda since January and have also been trending on Twitter. An example of the link between recent events in the Middle East and UGC is that the first protest in Egypt was organised on Facebook. Here’s Jess speaking again:

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter

User Generated content in media discussed at the NUJ Student Conference

I went along to the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) Student conference last weekend and managed to get in a question to the panel about UGC.

From left to right: Marc Vallée (photojournalist) – Heather Brooke (campaigner & author) – Donnacha Delong (VP NUJ) – Shiv Malik (investigative reporter)

I asked what they thought about user generated content in journalism. As an example of UGC I mentioned how the Guardian published MP’s expenses details, and asked readers to take a look and find any information that they might have missed. This is what each of the panelists had to say:

  • Heather Brooke thought it was impossible for just one person to go though huge amounts of data like the expenses information. She said it was a great idea to put the information into the public domain so that more data could be analysed faster.
  • Marc Vallée used the example of the amateur footage of when Ian Tomlinson was pushed over by police at the 2009 G20 in London. This event led to his death. The footage was sent to The Guardian newspaper who published it. He explained that this is a great example of how the media uses UGC to its advantage. He said that twitter is also extremely useful for journalists. They can find out where people are and what’s happening. It is used a lot by paparazzi to find out where celebs are.
  • Shiv Malik thought that ‘citizen journalism‘ and UGC are very important. But he believes there still needs to be a skilled journalist to put the story together. He said that without the journalist and news organization the information wouldn’t get transmitted to as big an audience.
  • Donnacha Delong mentioned that the police at the G20 summit were trying to keep journalists as far away from the protests as possible. He said that journalists were told to go away for an hour or risk being arrested.
  • Shiv Malik concluded by saying that user generated content is not a replacement for traditional journalism. It does however compliment and add important information to journalism. It also helps keep the police and government in check because anyone can publish online and become a part of news.

By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm