Reliable Sources In The Age Of YouTube

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Much of YouTube's success has burgeoned from circulating videos of a more humorous nature (take the substantial viewership of Connie Chung's recent rendition of "Thanks For The Memories" during the final installment of her now defunct MSNBC program, for example.) But, as we noted earlier this week, the site is also fast becoming a worthwhile compendium of news reports and video commentaries about the conflict in Israel and Lebanon. The Washington Post's Sara Kehaulani Goo today takes a more detailed look at the site's success on that front, while raising some of the issues that are often associated with such efforts in citizen journalism. "Although the amateur videos provide an appealingly intimate account of what's happening on the ground," writes Goo, "it can be difficult to determine authenticity. The videos are often posted under pseudonyms or screen names that do not contain e-mail addresses."

It's a question that surrounds much of the information now readily available on the Web -- it's raw, intense, but is it authentic? Reliable? Of course, outlets like YouTube aren't – and do not purport to be – news outlets. And the site is up front about noting that it doesn't monitor video content, "though it prohibits videos that are violent," writes Goo.

In that sense, video clips like these certainly expand the landscape, but they have their limitations. One veteran journalist noted his concerns about the value of the "new Internet world" in an interview published in today's USA Today. NPR analyst Daniel Schorr told Peter Johnson that the unfiltered nature of the new media like means fewer stories will be suppressed since "you can always have a blogger who gets the story out." On the other hand, "what we have here is a medium in which there is no publisher, no editor, no anything. It's just you and a little machine and you can make history. I find that scary. Nobody should get into print or on the air without some kind of editor. I have an institutional belief that nobody can be above having a good editor."
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