the kdmcinfo weblog

Citizen Videos-A Primer for Reporters-Authentication

Citizen Videos-A Primer for Reporters-Authentication

In her second guest blog, Madeleine Bair, tackles the issue of confirming authenticity of citizen videos. An alumni of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Madeleine currently 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 videos take us to places we cannot access, at moments we are not there. But to use citizen videos as effective reporting tools, we must address the questions they raise. The most pressing one for journalists is authenticity.

Raw videos might appear to offer a visual illustration of your story, but keep in mind your job is to separate fact from fiction. As authentic as a video may appear, as with the viral Eagle Snatches Kid video, our eyes and modern technology can fool us as evident in the making of the Eagle Snatches Kid video.

In late 2012, a video was uploaded to YouTube alleging to show extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. Thing is, the same video was uploaded two years earlier. Lesson: uploaders are not necessarily the original filmers, and their supplied information may not be true.

Think of citizen video as a quote from a source—it may be juicy, it may point you in a certain direction, but like any source, it comes with biases and inaccuracies. Contextualize the video with more information. Is the same event documented elsewhere? What do you know about the videographer? Be transparent about what you do and don’t know. Watching Syria’s War, a project of the New York Times, does a great job of documenting citizen videos for the reader with additional context.

Verification Tools
There are paid services, like Storyful, that investigate citizen video. But reporters without a subscription can learn from some its practices. One part of its process is finding corroborating information. Are people tweeting about the filmed event? Is it shown on a live stream? Does the video include geographical landmarks of the alleged location?

The Human Rights Channel that I work on at WITNESS curates citizen video from around the world, and all of our video first goes through Storyful, making the channel another source for verified citizen footage.

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