Social media: a platform once considered ‘just a bit of fun’ has unforeseeably developed to impact the world in ways we could not have imagined. Even the news, one of the most longstanding industries, has embraced the opportunity to harness the power of this medium, using readily available user generated content (UGC) such as photos and videos to provide hard hitting scenes to the masses. Professor Vin Crosbie describes it as ‘the future of news reporting’ in this video.
From police brutality in the USA, to the tragic terror attacks in Paris, eyewitnesses were able to use sites such as Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter to post first hand footage of the scenes, long before news crews arrived. Understandably, this footage is gold dust for the reporters and the result is that they engage in some ethically questionable activities when obtaining and distributing it.
But before exploring this issue further, the slideshow below displays some of the positive implications of using UGC, as I feel it would be unjust to not present these as part of the argument.
I cannot deny that I am intrigued by the raw footage provided by users, but my issue is that the organisations are not considering the treatment of the providers nearly enough.
This video examines the topic of copyright within UGC, something frequently ignored by reporters. The statistics certainly stack up, with only 16% of eyewitness media being credited (Posseti, Sparks & Matthews, 2014). The question must therefore be raised, why should the organisation be allowed to profit from the footage and the creator receive no compensation or accreditation?
Past this, I would argue that the presence of basic compassion and decency appears to be lacking within some firms. Emily Carroll, a lady that witnessed a collision between two planes at Dublin Airport tweeted some photographs of the incident and after receiving over 20 usage requests, only two asked if she was OK. Another shocking example is that of Jordi Mir, who recorded one of the murders in the Paris attacks. Despite his request not to show the moment of death in any coverage, many news organisations did (Dubberly, 2015).
With this in mind, how would you react if approached by the press? Clearly the individuals below take a strong stance on the topic (granted, it the Sun and Daily Mail).
I do not believe this ever growing relationship between social media and the news is inherently negative, however I do feel that the government and the newsrooms need to implement rules around how the eyewitnesses are being treated, or else we will all risk losing this invaluable tool in the future.
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Dubberley, S. (2015). Eyewitness media (not UGC): Newsrooms must handle it better or risk losing out. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/collegeofjournalism/entries/a8965fb1-a867-4b5c-a6c8-01692f6941ec. Last accessed 25/11/2016.
Posetti, J, Sparks, J & Matthews, A. (2014). Juggling Ethical Dilemmas of User-generated Content in the Newsroom. Available: https://ijnet.org/en/blog/juggling-ethical-dilemmas-user-generated-content-newsroom. Last accessed 25/11/2016.
Karg, T. (2014). The Pros and Cons of User Generated Content.Available: http://onmedia.dw-akademie.com/english/?p=233. Last accessed 25/11/2016.