Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

Recommendations for the Entire News Industry:

  • Newsrooms should invest properly in UGC and stop treating it solely as a source of breaking news footage. Building a community of trust with the audience creates valuable opportunities for organizations to differentiate their output from that of their competitors.

  • Crediting guidelines should be implemented throughout every organization and at every step of the process, from the first view of a piece of UGC right up to the point at which it goes to air or online. All staff needs to be aware that failure to credit could result in lawsuits or extra payment to uploaders.

  • All staff should be taught basic digital verification skills. Within each newsroom, there should be a core group of journalists who can undertake forensic-level verification analysis. It is just as important that these skills are mastered by producers as it is by the editors who make final decisions about output.

  • All newsrooms must develop an awareness of the potential risks to citizen journalists filming and uploading content, and the need to advise uploaders not to jeopardize their personal safety. Newsrooms should also implement clear guidelines to all staff about when it is safe to contact uploaders or use their details on air.

  • Industry-wide guidelines should be created to ensure total transparency with the audience about who filmed UGC footage that is put onscreen (whether activists, eyewitnesses, NGOs, et al.).

  • Newsroom technology should be developed to enable credits to be burnt onto UGC video during transcoding as the video enters the newsroom Media Asset Management system. This includes video ingested from agencies and other partners.

  • Mechanisms and best-practice guidelines should be instituted for managers and staff regularly working with UGC in order to prevent vicarious trauma. On an individual level, this includes specific advice about the effects of upsetting UGC video and vicarious trauma, and access to anonymous counseling. On a managerial level, this includes advice such as rotating shift patterns and an understanding of how to spot signs of vicarious trauma.

  • Ethical codes should be developed around what content should or should not be used from the social Web, particularly when the uploader would not have expected it to be used by a news organization, or if it is likely the uploader had little understanding of the privacy settings of a particular network.