Are people putting their lives at risk for ugc and journalism and is the media industry encouraging it ? A look at Japan and the Middle East

As previous posts on this website have shown a huge amount of the news coverage coming out of conflict and disaster zones such as Libya, Egypt, and more recently Japan, is user generated. That is to say that civilians and citizens are using their cameras to document what’s happening all over the world from being shot at by Gaddafi forces, to filming their houses crumbling around them.

The quality is not always great but the undisputed power it yields, is that it’s captured as the action is happening. This is something journalists cannot always achieve due to time, safety constraints, and deadlines.

Watching the footage of the earthquake in Japan and the violence in Libya got me thinking about how people around the world might actually be putting their lives at risk in order to, paradoxically, record moments of life. Recent eyewitness footage demonstrates this desire and need to record what’s happening as it’s happening. The first thing many people did when the earthquake struck was to grab their cameras and press record, while in Libya many people are risking their lives to film during open gunfire.

Videos coming out of these troubled areas are showing a fascinating yet potentially deadly trend. We have already seen the death of one ‘citizen journalist’ in Libya being called a ‘citizen journalist martyr’. People are going against what has been perceived for generations as a basic human instinct. The drive to survive. Many people these days seem to outright put their lives at risk in order to capture something on film. But why is this happening and should it be happening?

I talked to ITN’s former Chief Executive Stewart Purvis to see what he thought about this growing trend, and whether broadcasters are justified in using UGC footage in the first place.

You can see the interview here, or check out the main information below.

Stewart started by saying that he did think broadcasters are justified in using the footage, as these people are capturing world events. The issue however, is when there is a risk of broadcasters indirectly encouraging people to film these kinds of dangerous events. He explained that this ‘indirect encouragement’ could be a greater risk with UGC because these people have no official connection to the networks.

Another risk is that ‘citizen journalists’ don’t have any formal training in what to do while filming under these circumstances. Many people seem to believe that if they have a camera filming they will be immune from danger, when in actual fact it could make them more of a target.

According to Stewart the events in Libya and Japan are very distinct. This is because in Japan there was amateur footage of the quake, but it was nothing compared to the incredible film shot by state media like NHK. In Libya however, due to the lack of state media coverage of what’s going on, and Gaddafi’s government restrictions on western media, a vacuum has been created. This means that everyday citizens have taken covering events into their own hands, to make sure the world is aware of what the real situation not being portrayed on state television. The government there are able to control to a certain extent what foreign media gets to see, but not how people use their mobile phones and the telecoms systems to then distribute that material.

Links:
Young Journalist Killed in Iraq

Libyan Citizen Journalist Killed – Mohammad Nabbous

British Journalist Killed in Iraq

By Kirsty Malcolm @kirstymalcolm

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Tweet / Facebook your pics of India vs Pakistan @ Generated By Users: the quest for UGC

I was browsing through this blog, when I noticed something was missing – consideration of UGC when it comes to sport. You will often see users taking to social media during sporting events as they generate a great emotional response in fans. India played Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup today – a huge rivalry largely due to the two countries’ proximity and history. Plenty were Facebook –ing and tweeting about the game.

I took to both Twitter and Facebook to try and get users to send me pictures of their viewing experiences to convey the atmosphere and buzz surrounding the clash.

Here was my first tweet:

Generated By Users tweets during India vs Pakistan

Unsurprisingly, it received no response – so I requested that people send me pictures in tweets using the trending #indvspak and by hashtag -ing towns where I knew there was a large Asian population including Southall, Bradford and Tooting.

Sadly, I didn’t receive any responses on the Generated By Users Twitter account at this stage despite using hashtags to focus my tweets so they can be searched for more easily.

But I did get responses to my Facebook appeal:

Malpreet Lidder sends me a picture of her India vs Pakistan viewing experience via Facebook

My friend Malpreet probably took time to take this picture and tag me in it because she knows me personally, emphasising the importance of social capital. My family friend Romana also snapped a picture of her viewing experience in Lahore:

My family friend Romana Chohan watching the match in Pakistan

I was conscious that people may be so absorbed by the game that they won’t take time to send little known but obviously awesome blog Generated By Users their pictures. So after the game, I appealed for pictures of places where I knew fans would be celebrating on the streets following India’s win.

More Twitter appeals post-match

Alas, no one would get back to Generated By Users.

I decided to search #southall and came across a man called Jez Humble who had tweeted a picture of the jubilant scenes in this West London town.

I got in touch with him and he kindly let me put his photo on my blog…

Thanks Jez!

Southall post India vs Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup: spot the India flags! Picture taken by @jezhumble on Twitter

Thus, I got some UGC for this post through Twitter after many hours, to convey the excitement surrounding today’s match.

Phew!

This experiment shows me using Twitter and Facebook to source UGC, and also allowed me to demonstrate knowledge of the Creative Commons Licence. This essentially gives the go ahead for an organisation/person to use other people’s pictures for free with their permission – always remember to credit them!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out bloggers’ your2pence’s attempt to get in touch with people on the ground in Japan. They did good!

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter

How the BBC uses UGC: part Two. An interview with Matthew Eltringham

Matthew Eltringham is assistant Editor of Interactivity and Social Media Development at the BBC. I did an article about how he developed the UGC hub at the BBC and how the line of verification is a way of understanding which information the BBC will and will not use and how it is verified.

Matthew describes the different ways of incorporating UGC into newsgathering and more importantly, how we as fellow journalists can learn from the BBC how to verify that UGC is correct.

I asked Matthew if he could explain to me and GeneratedByUsers‘ fellow journalists exactly what the line of verification is in his own words.


I then asked him: If something comes up from the dark side, the dark side of the line of verification, how do you go about checking that it is okay to use it  and what influences you to use it?


And finally, I asked him what are the consequences of using wrong information from the dark side and is it worth using?


Although Matthew and his team experienced some skepticism from the BBC when the UGC hub was created, he claims it is merely another form of journalism and must be used alongside conventional journalism in the 21st century to keep up with breaking news.
By Linzi Kinghorn

PREVIEW: Al Jazeera English’s new UGC news show: The Stream

Al Jazeera is a news channel on the up. Riding high after the success of its Middle east coverage over the last couple of months, this May it is launching an all new show with user generated content at its heart.

“The Stream”, which has been in development since last year, will be a new daily talk show on Al Jazeera English with a fully intergrated web community. In fact, ‘the web community is arguably more important in getting the right feedback, stories and editorial angle of the show’

Generated By Users spoke to Ahmed Shihab-Eldin producer and co-presenter of “The Stream”. The whole concept behind he programme is to seek out untold stories, get ground level angles on big news events and to link into often overlooked discussion points or conversations online. That means that Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen, popular as they are online won’t be featuring, but instead “The Stream” will stay true to Al Jazeera’s mission by giving a voice to the voiceless.

To create the narrative of the show which is unscripted and without autocue, social media curation is vital and they make use of a tool called Storify to create the conversation that fuels the show. Storify allows you to take multiple feed from social networks and compile them into one narrative.

As the show is built on user generated content and is screened live trust obviously becomes an issue. Al Jazeera already have a portal roughly similar to CNN’s iReport so they are already attuned to issues of UGC and trust. Ahmed Shihab-Eldin says that the number of people engaged online mean that facts are checked by crowdsourcing, but admittedly on face value we have to be wary of UGC.

News organisations no longer have exclusivity over our news and what we see, stories are breaking on twitter and online tools mean that everyone can be a part of telling the story as is the case with live blogs. But will there be more intergration of UGC and News?

Viewers and consumers of news are more willing to except lesser quality for immediacy and traditionally unreported angles, but does it risk making traditional reporting obsolete?

Al Jazeera English has seen a massive surge in popularity in recent months (increase of web traffic by 2500%), especially in the United States, due to its non-stop comprehensive coverage of the uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. They hope “The Stream” can help to advance the cause of social media as a legitimate form of publishing information.

We’ll have to wait and see if “The Stream” succeeds where others (CNN we’re looking at you) have failed. But if anyone can make it work it’s a news organisation on the up.

Join “The Stream” on Twitter or http://www.ajestream.com/

The future of User Generated Content? CNN, iReport and Open Story.

CNN are pioneered a new approach to UGC and News with iReport and now they are launching a new user generated experience with Open Story. Generated by Users spoke to Lila King – Participation Director of CNN.com who takes us through the last five years of iReport and crucially what CNN have planned for the future with Open Story.

Open Story – CNN’s big UGC jump forward?

Japan Open Story

iReport has existed for almost five years and become more and more intergrated into CNN’s website and coverage of news. Now with Open Story (still in Beta) it takes CNN’s footage and all the perspectives of iReporters and it places it on a map and timeline giving you a full overarching picture of a news story. This rounded approach to user generated content existing together in one realtime platform is a bold one and one that the GBU team like a lot. Check out the SXSW and Japan Open Stories that Lila King Mentions.

So what is iReport?

Back in 2006 CNN first started its iReport initiative. CNN iReport is the network’s participatory news community. CNN iReporters from all over the world come to CNN.com to share video, photo, audio and text they deem newsworthy. Additionally they form communities of shared interests and engage in impassioned discussions.

CNN's iReport Homepage


It began after a number of stories where footage taken on camera phones was more compelling than traditional news organization footage. News events such as the Asian Tsunami, London 7/7 and Hurricane Katrina really shuck up the way we receive news and how news is gathered.

Here is Lila explaining in full

and a little more on the History of iReport…

Can we Trust User Generated Content?

The biggest challenge when it come to UGC is trust so we asked Lila if we can trust iReports and how CNN vet them. She says that iReports are vetted for CNN with the same rules as any other kinds of footage used on CNN staff. iReport has the same editorial philosophy as CNN.

So is UGC the future of News?

According to Lila the power of UGC is in combination with professional journalist as it offers incredible diversity and human viewpoints, but also UGC requires a lot of filtering and curating to make it successful.

iReport in Numbers

  • Typically CNN vets between 5 and 10 percent of the iReports that are received
  • CNN’s iReport has more than 753,000 registered “iReporters” (Source: iReport Server Log Data) with an average of 2.1 million unique users each month through February 2011. (Source: ComScore).
  • In its history the community has brought in 799,959 videos and photos
  • There are an average submission of 15,391 iReports each month on iReport.com.
  • CNN has received an iReport from every country in the world.       

UGC in the children’s world: we speak to expert in children’s audience Greg Childs

From online forums such as the CBBC messageboards to interactive sites like moshimonsters.com, children create UGC too!So, I arranged to talk with children’s media consultant Greg Childs, whose company childseye.tv provides digital solutions for the children’s audience. He previously worked for many years at CBBC.

Greg Childs - media consultant providing digital solutions for the children's audience with childseye.tv . Picture taken by Anisa Kadri

Greg set up the BBC Children’s New Media Unit, to develop the first official Websites for key brands such as Blue Peter and Live & Kicking. He told Generated By Users the main differences between the use of UGC by children and adults. He emphasises that children have to be directed more when it comes to using UGC. I noticed how true this was when analysing Newsround’s website. The screen grab below is from the top of Newsround’s homepage, highlighting the importance of UGC in making news accessible for children.

Screen grab of the top of Newsround's homepage

To make news engaging, children are being directed to create UGC by being told they can play games, take quizzes and interact on the site via the chat rooms. Adults need less direction, for instance they may just express their opinions on news as comments or in tweets.

Greg also explained the extent to which Facebook and Twitter are options for children, and highlighted a number of websites encouraging children to explore UGC including moshimonsters.com where children can look after virtual pets and talk about them.

Screen grab of children's website moshimonsters.com

Listen to Greg speak on the above matters below:

I thought I’d split the interview I conducted with Greg in two. He also told me whether his ideas for children’s UGC had changed since he launched the first online forums at CBBC, and what he sees next for UGC in the children’s arena. He thinks we may see even younger children generating content, but not using language… intrigued? Then be sure to listen the second part of my interview with Greg:

By Anisa Kadri @anisakadri on Twitter

UGC success! Converting social networks into social capital to get to SXSW

We spoke to Tuttle founder Lloyd Davis a few days before he was about to cross America to get to SXSW using only the currency of social capital.

For Lloyd it was an experiment to see how friends and contacts made through online social networks could be converted into material commodities.

So how does UGC fit into this I hear you cry? Well Lloyd wanted to test the relationships he’d made via UGC platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare to see if they stood up in real life. A big criticism lots of the social media skeptics pile onto these platforms is that you waste time connecting to and talking to people you don’t know or have never met – it’s nothing like real life networking and getting to know people.

Lloyd disagreed and wanted to prove the value of an online network.

He flew out to San Francisco and travelled across the States to Texas for worldwide tech conference SXSW. He had no money and so had to rely on donations of food, transport, accommodation and money from his social networks.

He did it and is still in America planning to move on to New Orleans and New York before heading back to London exchanging social capital for real life stuff. Lloyd told me that the main thing he’s learnt so far is that sometimes you think you’re spending social capital when actually you’re making it. Also that it’s tempting to think of it like money and that it gets up when you use it, but sometimes it can increase when you use it.

He’ll be writing up his findings in more details on his return and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for an update.

I asked him who’s been the most generous, what bits of tech he couldn’t have done it without and what he enjoyed most about SXSW. Oh and what his experiment had taught him about social capital 🙂

 

 

By Lucy Hewitt