Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


There are four ways that UGC finds its way into news output. For some organizations, the only way it arrives is as part of a news agency feed. It has been verified, cleared, and is in a format that can be dropped straight into a package. Other news organizations scour social networks for UGC during breaking news events. But that requires a great deal more work in terms of verification and rights clearance, and with YouTube content that is to be broadcast on air, there are the additional issues of downloading and converting the video to a suitable format.

When newsrooms are using their own newsgathering techniques to source and verify UGC, be it via social networks or by people directly sharing material with them, there are staffing implications. In smaller newsrooms, one person might do the job; in others there are dedicated desks. Certainly, staff that work with UGC every day believe a dedicated desk would make a significant difference to the newsroom. It was acknowledged that the basic skills required to work with UGC have developed across newsrooms, but there is a recognition that people who do this every day are able to hone their skills and expertise in very important ways. At the BBC, which has its dedicated UGC Hub, Chris Hamilton, the social media editor, explained that while many people in the newsrooms know how to spot fake Twitter accounts, that skill isn’t universal. He explained, ‘[The Hub] is still a go to, certainly for anything that is truly amateur, and especially on Syria.” He also discussed how skills are being disseminated across different desks. “There are pockets of expertise [across the newsroom], partly because people work on the Hub and then they go off and work elsewhere.” Our interviewees demonstrated that newsrooms globally are using more UGC, and even those who currently use very little acknowledged this is going to change. As this occurs, the way that UGC is managed, and by whom, is going to be an increasingly important question for senior editors.