Beet.TV interviewed Olivia Ma, manager of YouTube News, about how professionals and non-professionals are using YouTube to communicate on world events. The site was founded 6 years ago as a distribution platform to share videos, and this forms the basis for what the website does still today: YouTube does not vet uploaded material.
As a platform, the website is more and more used to share videos from significant events around the world. This is largely because a growing number of people carry with them video-enabled mobile phones with the possibility to upload video on the Internet, making them potential citizen reporters.
According to Ma, people seem to be most motivated to communicate via YouTube in countries where media presence is weak. People living under repressive governments seem particularly motivated to surpass hurdles designed to prevent uploading videos. The fact that in many countries more people have mobile phones with video capability than access to the Internet makes large-scale citizen reporting possible.
Ma sees YouTube democratising news as it makes it possible for anyone to report on events that are happening around him or her. People have understood that they can have a role in providing news, which is an empowering realisation, particularly in areas where there is no freedom of the press and little media coverage. However, this does not mean that anyone can become a professional journalist, Ma points out. In fact, most of the people uploading newsworthy content on YouTube do not consider themselves citizen journalists.
For professionals, the site offers a source for raw footage that can be incorporated back into their stories. Furthermore, aggregating other people's content is becoming an increasingly common form of communication, some site-users having become sort of curators. Lately, YouTube has seen the emergence of authoritative channels that do not produce content but curate and bring context to the documented events.
With over 35 hours of video uploaded every minute, it is no wonder YouTube is becoming a kind of cornucopia of raw material for journalists seeking first-hand video documentation of remarkable events around the world. And the possibilities the platform offers have not gone unnoticed. For example, Storify, a site designed to make social media curation easy, recently opened for public.