Monday, June 29, 2009

YouTube Reporters' Center Offers Free Journalism Training From Top Pros

YouTube has launched yet another initiative to encourage this bizarre phenomenon known as "citizen journalism." Apparently in response to criticism, such as ours, that journalism should be the purview of professionals, and average Joes who contribute cellphone video clips of airline disasters are properly called "eyewitnesses," YouTube has now taken it upon itself to provide free journalism training to the masses. Naturally, it takes the form of short instructional video segments, housed in its brand new Reporters' Center.

The upside to all this is that the teachers are not just any J-school profs, but CBS's Katie Couric ("How to Conduct a Good Interview"), Washington Post's Bob Woodward ("Investigative Journalism"), New York Times's Nicholas Kristof ("Covering a Global Crisis"), NPR's Scott Simon ("How to Tell a Story"), PBS's Tavis Smiley ("How to Get More From Your Subject"), Arianna Huffington ("Citizen Journalism"), and a few dozen more top pros.

Ever captured a natural disaster or a crime on your cell-phone camera? Filmed a political rally or protest, and then interviewed the participants afterward? Produced a story about a local issue in your community? If you've done any of these things or aspire to, then you're part of the enormous community of citizen reporters on YouTube, and this channel is for you.

The YouTube Reporters' Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation's top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting.
In its true spirit of Web democracy, YouTube even enables everybody -- yes, even YOU -- to join the ranks of Couric, Woodward, et al in teaching journalism: "If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page."

There's no denying the entertainment value of hearing someone as brilliant and accomplished as Nick Kristof (a favorite contributor to KobreGuide's New York Times channel) discourse about covering global crises. He strikes a tone that's alternatively serious and tongue-in-cheek, addressing topics ranging from safety tips ("The first rule is to make sure you get back alive. Never argue with people with large guns. There's no point in getting a great interview with a warlord if afterwards he kills you and takes your video.") to basic storytelling pointers ("Personalize the story. Americans don't care about thousands of people starving, but they can be made to care about one individual, and, through that person, about the larger problem.")

Steve Myers at Poynter Online provides thoughtful coverage and commentary... and the most generous interpretation of YouTube's goals:

The project is part of a larger effort to make YouTube a destination for video news and to cement it as the meeting place for people who witness important events and the organizations that need their accounts.

Meanwhile, below is an overview -- and a few sample "lessons" -- to help you draw your own conclusions about the project's merits. If nothing else, there's definitely an abundance of journalism wisdom in these tutorials. News purveyors and consumers alike stand to be enlightened by the collective lessons contained therein.

But, as always, we can't help but wonder if folks would be as motivated to devour video tutorials from leading cardiologists in how to perform your own heart bypass surgery.

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