YouTube unveils online journalism classroom

Launch of Reporters’ Center points again to increasing politicization of social media sites

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
June 29, 2009
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youRecordWith tumultuous protests raging in Iran after a controversial election followed by the unanticipated death of pop star Michael Jackson, journalists of all varieties have had a lot to cover over the past couple weeks. On the Internet, we have seen social media users taking on an increasingly unique role in bringing breaking and often unverified news to the forefront quickly, sporadically, and messily.

Seemingly in response to this coverage, YouTube launched a tool yesterday called the YouTube Reporters’ Center, intended to instruct amateur journalists on the finer points of good journalism.

According to the blog post announcing the launch, almost every aspect of reporting seems to be covered: “Learn how to prepare for an interview from CBS News' Katie Couric; how to be an investigative reporter from the legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, or why it's important for citizens to participate in the news-gathering process from Arianna Huffington.”

They’ve even included a video from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on staying safe in a crisis, something that might have been especially useful to journalists in Iran filming unfolding events against the governments expressed demands.

The release of this new tool, coupled with reactions to large news stories of the last month, only provides more evidence for the increasing power of social media networks in the arena of politics.

In general, users on sites like YouTube and Twitter, equipped with computers and cameras, are truly showing the extraordinary influence of ordinary people. Indeed, on the same day that the Reporters’ Center launched, the YouTube Blog also announced that President Obama would be taking questions through the video site to discuss impending health care reforms.

Still, social media reporting is far from perfect. While everyone awaited official news on the status of Michael Jackson last Thursday afternoon, the tidal wave of content on Twitter and Facebook appeared to be more aimless banter than useful reporting.

In providing a service aimed at informing novice reporters on the importance of journalistic principles, YouTube is actively trying to develop or evolve the power of social media into something that is not just the wild ruckus of opinion that we saw last Thursday. Opening up the service with instruction videos from high-profile personalities like Katie Couric and Arianna Huffington, YouTube hopes that eventually users will upload their own instruction videos, tailored to more specific or unique topics.

An example of the kind of instruction available at the YouTube Reporters’ Center:

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