Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


User-generated content is used when other images are not available, as the ongoing reliance on it (even by national news bulletins) to cover the Syrian conflict demonstrates. The way that UGC was integrated during coverage of

the Glasgow helicopter crash and the razing of Lenin’s statue in Kiev during the Ukrainian protests suggests that it is often employed as a stopgap before news agency pictures emerge—interestingly, even if the professional ones are less dramatic. During interviews, even though some journalists spoke passionately about the benefits UGC provides in terms of authenticity, a diversity of voices, and news angles, there was a recurring argument that where possible, professional journalists should be telling the stories. UGC certainly inspires stories that would otherwise be ignored, as long as the pictures are sufficiently compelling. Within our sample UGC emerged to drive a handful of stories. Some were kicker stories like the one mentioned previously about a ship’s cook who was unexpectedly found alive by a dive team sent to investigate a sunken ship. Others were shocking cases of police brutality captured through secret filming on camera phones. As newsrooms become more confident in discovering and verifying content, as well as building relationships with different communities, the opportunity to use UGC to report on previously ignored stories will grow.