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Citizen Video: A Primer for Reporters

A special thanks to kdmcBerkeley guest blogger, Madeleine Bair, a UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumni, for this informative post.  Madeleine curates the Human Rights Channel a WITNESS project, powered by Storyful and hosted on YouTube. You can follow her at @MadBair, and follow the Channel at @ytHumanRights.

Citizen Video
The ability to search, analyze, and use citizen videos can give a journalist an additional pairs of eyes and ears, along with a wealth of story ideas. In this 2-part blog post, I’ll outline some pointers and links to tools that will help you use citizen video efficiently and ethically in your reporting.

More than 100,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every day. Advanced searching goes a long way in filtering out the junk.

Google’s search options are superior to YouTube’s. After entering search terms, choose Video. Then press Search Tools to search by date, source, and duration (most citizen video is under 4 minutes).

Search in the language of your story. Use Google translate to put your search terms into the local language. A search of the term “Khartoum protest” for video uploaded to YouTube between December 8-14 returns a page of videos from American accounts unrelated to Khartoum protests. A search for the same translated into Arabic gives me just what I’m looking for: raw video of demonstrations in Khartoum regarding the killing of student activists.

Utilize social media. Learn what hashtag is used for your story (using a twitter tool such as and follow that hashtag for video links.

Citizen Video Curation Sites
The Human Rights Channel is one of several websites that curate raw video.  Our Citizen Watch playlist is updated every day with video of emerging human rights stories from around the world. Other curation websites include CrowdVoice (focusing on protests around the world) and Syria Deeply.

Geofeedia is one of a growing number of services (free and paid) to search social media and video by metadata, including location. Here’s a writeup on Poynter about using it to report breaking news.

Check back next week for part 2, when we tackle issues surrounding authentication.

Interested in producing your own videos? Join kdmcBrkeley for a three-day certificate workshop in video storytelling. You'll learn the tools and techniques for capturing live video, editing in Adobe Premiere Pro and uploading your video story to the web. Video Storytelling Workshop: March 25-27, 2013