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Citizen journalism gone too far

January 25, 2011 | 12:49 pm

Moscow I'm all for citizen journalists capturing eyewitness news. It gives us a look into events that may have otherwise gone undocumented. But I disagree with Megan O'Neill of Social Times who, writing about the anonymous YouTube video of the Moscow airport bombing, said socially driven, citizen-gathered news should drive out legitimate news sources.

Regardless of who shot the original eyewitness footage, I think that the power of web video and citizen journalism is becoming clearer and clearer. When someone at the scene of an event or tragedy, such as the tragedy that occurred today in Moscow, all they have to do is whip out a cellular phone with a camera, shoot a quick video and upload it to YouTube and the world will be able to see what they have seen and what they are going through. Major events can get worldwide coverage within a matter of minutes, or the time it takes to upload the video to YouTube.

To O'Neill, I'd say that it's totally irresponsible to upload a video of people who lay dead from a bomb; those victims deserve dignity and respect, as do their families who shouldn't run the risk of learning that a loved one is gone via YouTube.

I'm not picking a bone with O'Neill because I want to keep my job. Or that I'm resistant to the changed media landscape. Or that I don't acknowledge the profound power of citizen journalism. Hello, Tunisia. But I would argue that as a culture, we need to adopt some ethical parameters before we go about uploading videos and photos onto social media sites for all to see. It's morally reprehensible. That's what distinguishes journalists, who have to follow ethical guidelines and think about consequences, from the everyday Joe with a camera and a YouTube account. So, I'm not saying don't take the video. Just don't upload it to YouTube. Send it to a credible news organization or another responsible gatekeeper, such as the user-policed Slashdot, that can disseminate the video responsibly, which, these days, also includes tweeting. 

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-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: A man lights a candle at the Moskovsky railway station in St.Petersburg, Russia Tuesday to commemorate the victims of a suicide bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. Credit: Dmitry Lovetsky / Associated Press

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