In recent years YouTube has shifted from being the place people go to find talking dogs and music videos to a platform where people seek breaking news. The seminal moment was the devastating earthquake of March 15, 2011 when millions turned to YouTube to watch as a powerful tsunami struck the Japanese coast. For news organisations, this was cemented by the Arab Spring; for revolutionaries, YouTube became the main publishing platform for their videos.
A huge volume and diversity of news content is now posted on YouTube. An average of 7,000 hours of news content is uploaded to the platform each day, according to YouTube. Almost 40,000 videos of Hurricane Sandy were uploaded in the week it swept across the Carribbean and eastern US seaboard. Over 350,000 newsworthy videos were uploaded from Syria in 2012, watched 200 million times on YouTube (not taking television broadcasts into account).
Never before have so many people had the means to document and self-publish their daily experiences. Citizen journalists across the globe contribute hugely to news on YouTube, sometimes at great risk to their safety (as outlined below). Storyful journalists live in YouTube and other social platforms, drawing news from noise and verifying videos as they emerge. We work closely with citizen journalists and below we present those who we believe were the best in 2012.
[Warning: Some of the content below contains mildly graphic detail]
Rami Al-Sayeed, Homs, Syria
Rami Al-Sayeed was a Syrian video activist who filmed hundreds of videos showing regime forces shelling Baba Amr, a suburb of western Homs. As the bombardment intensifed in January and February of 2012, each day Rami and others took to the streets and filmed the destruction of their town, often at risk to their safety.
Rami epitomised the combined effort of dozens of video activists across Syria who tell the true story of what is happening to their towns and villages. Rami was not a propagandist for rebels; he simply documented his daily life. And to great effect – he drew the attention of the world to Baba Amr and for weeks the videos he filmed were broadcast on national and international television networks, countless blogs and news websites.
Rami’s personal story, too, is a powerful testament to the selfless work done by many activists working in dangerous situations. Near the climax of that campaign, on February 21, Rami filmed harrowing videos of children wounded by shrapnel when civilian areas were shelled. The images were broadcast globally in reports from the area by the Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed in Baba Amr on February 22. Rami also fell victim to the violence; he was killed with other activists on the evening of February 21. The poignant moment at the end of the video above is Rami filmed by his brother in a field hospital on the evening of his death. [Read more about Rami on Storyful here.]
Casey Neistat, New York
This Connecticut native living in New York has clocked over 25 million views on YouTube for his creative and quirky videos. Mixing college humour with news, Neistat and his brother get to the heart of local issues in engaging, catchy pieces.
Neistat had a viral video hit even before YouTube existed, with ‘iPod’s Dirty Secret’ in 2003. The short film, about the Apple device’s unreplaceable battery, gained millions of views and the attention of mainstream media.
An avid cyclist, Neistat again gained international attention for his 2011 YouTube video on New York bike lanes: a fine for cycling “not in a bike lane” prompted him to film the multitude of obstacles to cyclists in Manhattan, including police cars. Another deft piece was Neistat’s deconstruction of Mayor Bloomberg’s bluster on a new policy to address obesity by limiting the size of soda servings. Neistat cleverly showed why this policy was a good idea in principle, but how it would have little effect because of the number of outlets exempted.
Later in 2012, Neistat took to his bike again to film downtown Manhattan and Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the area. Neistat has moved somewhat mainstream of late following his online success. Nike commissioned him to create a video and HBO is running an autobiographical series about Casey and his brother, Van. We eagerly anticipate the next instalments from his ‘Bad Idea Tour’, including a waterfall jump in Durban and skydive through Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.
The Mosireen collective, Egypt
Mosireen is a group of citizen journalists who emerged during the uprising in Egypt and in 2012 filmed the country’s struggle for democracy. They contributed to most of the major stories in Egypt this year, producing content of a very high standard.
The footage in the montage above includes: protesters removing a ‘security wall’ erected by police during protests; a rally demanding the prosecution of those responsible for the February 2 attacks at a football stadium in Port Said; police carrying away an unconscious protester after clearing an area outside cabinet; and an interview with the father of a 17-year-old demonstrator, Jika, who was shot in the head by security forces during anti-Morsi protests in Cairo in November.
Mosireen and their like are important in bringing such stories from the margins to the mainstream.
Other citizen journalists that Storyful are impressed include:
Rosa Schiano, Italian citizen journalist in Gaza
Italian video activist Rosa Schiano, based in Gaza. Rosa regularly posts multimedia updates on events in Gaza on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Her documentaries inside Gazan hospitals and her interviews with victims and relatives during Israel’s air strikes showed courage and passion for reporting.
Tim Pool, American citizen journalist
A Time 100 nominee, Tim Pool is an American citizen journalist best known for his work documenting and livestreaming the Occupy movement and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York. In 2012, Tim also captured the anger driving anti-austerity protests in Madrid, Spain where youth employment is acutely high. An engaging and prolific user of several social platforms, Tim Pool also gives useful tips to other self-publishers on broadcasting online.