Viral news

The past two weeks cemented the role of the cellphone camera in citizen journalism. I was noodling around YouTube when I caught the video of a student getting Tasered for refusing to leave the library at UCLA. I’ll bet you’ve seen it. It’s agonizing to watch, to listen to some poor soul shriek as he gets zapped through two barbs implanted in his flesh, but the telling thing about the whole affair came at two points. One was the videographer — who I assume was capturing it on a cell phone — caught other students capturing the incident on cell phones. The second was the comments, when one viewer complained that the video sucked and the cameraperson was too much of a coward to get up close and personal and really show what was going on. That struck me as highly instructive — is there a simple guide to what to do when one sees news being made? Can a citizen simply wade into a confrontation and start taping? Look at the importance of the Zapruder films and ask yourself, if news is being made, are you ready to capture it?

The second event was the taking down of Kramer — Michael Whathisface — who launched into a racist attack and essentially got bagged by the same device.  This leads me to the question, in a society under surveillance, who is more likely to catch a misdeed? The security camera screwed into the streetlamp by The Man or a mob of Verizon wielding everymen? Cool stuff.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Viral news”

  1. The taser video was fascinating. The first one I watched was from a local TV news report, where they showed a brief clip of one jolt. Not a big deal, I thought. Then I watched the full clip from the citizen videographer, which showed him getting zapped a half-dozen times. Whoa! Mob journalism at its finest.

  2. I think the floodgates opened (in this case, thankfully) with the Rodney King video, and we’ve never looked back as a society. I think the medium of capture is one thing; the ability to publish it around the world in nanoseconds is where the power and “awe” come in. IN the case of Michael Mycareerisover, think about the fact that this was ‘broadcast’ on TMZ.com, and this is what all the news outlets reported, not CNN.com or others, but a celebrity gossip blog, right?!!!

    I am a huge fan of the band The Roots, and they currently have a video blog going covering their ongoing European tour. In a recent installment, evidently a couple of the band members had an altercation with some obnoxious patrons at a coffee house in Amsterdam. And it hit me last night watching the video installment chronicling this event, that this is amazing I am sitting here watching it like I know these guys personally. The keyboard player has a doozy of a shiner and a few stitches over his left eye from the incident, and looks like the drummer caught a slug to the eye as well. But the fact they are sitting in front of this camera showing their stitches and black eyes off to the world like they are in my living room is mind-blowing. (Also goes to their foresight and genius use of the web and their message boards to keep their fingers on the pulse of their fan base 24/7.)

    Side Note: The altercation part was most shocking because they are by no stretch as notorious as The Who, Led Zep, etc. in terms of tour rowdy-ness.

  3. Leo Laporte and crew had a similar observation in their This Week In Tech (TWIT) podcast this week. If it weren’t for YouTube and TMZ, we’d never have heard of either incident.

    The entire nature of where we get our news is changing.

  4. David, et all,

    Technology’s influence on societal behavior can be immense. In a related by different thread, about a month ago, “Sunday Morning”, the CBS show did a piece on a couple that video’d some altercation between their son and the local league soccer coach. The tape showed a line of kids walking by the coach, the coach saying something to one of them, the kid ignored him and the coach grabbed the kid by the arm and spun him around. The parents published the video on youtube, then went to CBS to coerce an apology from the coach (stated intent).

    I found this interesting on a couple points.

    1) Mainstream news becoming aware of youtube and the rise of citizen journalism, and doing a story on it.

    2) The coverage of the story from a single perspective – it smears the coach, and because the video, shot without audio and from 50 feet or more away, is the sole evidence of the matter, we the audience /readership don’t know what the surrounding facts were that led up to the incident. I don’t defend the apparant action of the coah, but I do consider there have been plenty of moments in my life I’m glad aren’t caught on film – digital or otherwise. How about you?

    3) The context, or story packaged around a video provides a slant to foster the agenda of the poster. It’s just an account with meaning put to the images.

    Idealistically, ala the Rodney King incident, I would hope that people with video or cell phone cameras and a way to distribute the “eyewitness” account could become a force to ensure fairness and rationality in our society. I’m also concerned that it can be used out of context, to harm people, or their reputations. Papers splash headlines and bury retractions. In the ether, how do you round up all the down level editions in circulation in favor of what is subsequently decided upon as the “whole or real story”?

  5. I think it will be a challenge to Google and You Tube to continue to deal with these issues of context and truth in UGC. On the other hand I can see MSM rushing to use material that hasn’t been vetted properly in a rush to publish or get something on air before their competitors.

  6. Great discussion. With everyone potentially a recording witness to any potential incident — where is the context? As a former police reporter, I know how difficult it is as a professional journalist, with a press badge, to walk into any volatile situation and seek both sides of a story, but that is the reporter’s job and sometimes crossing the yellow police tape and getting in the face of an officer who has just gone through a stressful incident can lead to some unpleasant reactions. But a reporter has a press pass so they can cross that yellow line and ask. The guy recording the UCLA incident, had he gone up to an officer and asked for an explanation would probably have been arrested for interfering. The audio on that clip is filled with students demanding badge numbers, yet no where in the video is any context.

    What was the guy doing to get the police on his case? Why didn’t the guy cooperate when they asked him repeatedly to stand up? Was he incapacitated by the shocks? All of this context has doubtlessly been provided elsewhere online — but none of it is in the YouTube report.

  7. David:

    Hello from across the puddle. Really like this topic…In a time when the internet makes it possible for almost anyone to become their own news station (accessible around the world), it is so important for people to be savvy enough to dissect their work, for them to ask the questions that many of us have become too lazy to ask of our mainstream press. What is the angle of the person reporting the story(or their employer), did they get both sides/all angles how diligent are they about getting the facts and checking them, etc.

    And almost equally important in the era of sites like YouTube is the influence of advertisers creaping into all aspects of our lives. Look at clips like Tea Partay and you realize that advertisers now have the ability to market their product to any audience without any real oversight at this time, and at a substantially cheaper cost. Advertising on these sites seems to have gone from the interruption in the entertainment to now being the entertainment. And they are done in such a way that it is hard to tell whether it is a real ad or just some kids making a video for fun. I remember reading an article recently about a vodka company that would send a person into the bar to advertise their product. This person would befriend larger groups of people, and when engaged would say how much he liked the brand that he was representing, suggesting others try it. Wow, was that just a friendly encounter you just had, or are you just being sold to…

    Exciting times….