Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

UGC as a Substitute?

Despite the range of reasons provided for actively integrating UGC into output, one point that remained prominent throughout our interviews was that UGC does not, and cannot, constitute a replacement for professional journalism. A digital editor underlined this point, saying, “We mustn’t overstate the importance of UGC... It’s incredibly important in some instances where professional organizations can’t get [somewhere] at speed, but it doesn’t supplant much. We mustn’t see it as better than the other.” Certainly a couple of editors were quite adamant that they only used UGC out of necessity. One argued: We’re only using this stuff because we’re not there. We’re using this stuff because we can’t get to these places anymore, whether it’s Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, as well as other countries that are not necessarily unsafe, but you can’t go because you can’t get visas. I mean, if it was easier to film in these places we wouldn’t be using social media; we’d be filming there ourselves. Another editor, from the other side of the world, agreed. “It’s good for breaking news and it’s good for a first response, but I still—every time—would prefer to have my people in the field.”