ONANYC Panel, image courtesy of @DavidClinchNews ONANYC Panel, image courtesy of @DavidClinchNews

Social savvy journalists gather in NYC to discuss the future of UGC in News

ONE HUNDRED hours of video is now uploaded every minute. Soon there will be more user generated content than professionally produced media.  But what does this mean for the media industry? Storyful’s Mark Little joined a panel of expert social media journalists met at an event at AP offices in New York on Tuesday evening organised by the ONA to discuss how UGC will affect the media industry in 2014.

Mark Little is the CEO and founder of Storyful, a social media agency that specialises in gathering, verifying and disseminating UGG. Storyful was recently acquired by News International for a reported $25 million. The other experts on the panel were Eric Carvin, social media editor for the AP, Erik Martin, General Manager at reddit, Katie Rogers, Social News Editor, Guardian US and Julie Whitaker, Social Media Editor for WNYC radio.

Little predicted the  death of the propriety scoop and pointed out that reporters need to forget about ‘me first’ journalism and use their skills to turn content into stories.  He said that UGC is no longer a shiny new thing but is now a vital part of the news gathering process as he quipped, “TV anchors sitting in front of walls of tweets is so 2013”.

The panelists all agreed that we are in a golden era of journalism but discussed some issues that needed to be addressed including concerns over the safety of UGC creators. Carvin said he’s afraid the day will soon come where someone will get arrested, hurt or even killed because journalists asked them to go and gather content. “We have to be willing to recognise tweeting at someone could put them in more danger sometimes and not do it”, he added. Little noted that a whole new legal, ethical, financial framework is needed for user-generated content.

The importance of UGC was underlined as during the event panelists were distracted by news of more violence on the streets of Kiev breaking on social media as the audience of news addicts scrambled to follow #Kyiv on Twitter. Julie Whitaker was keen, however, to point out that UGC is not used for breaking news alone. She said that some of her radio channels best material came from UGC such as people remixing audio of NYC mayors and listeners creating a map of the best sledding spots in the city. All the panelists had entertaining examples of non breaking news stories from Storyful’s ‘Emotional baby’ vidoe (YouTube it) to reddits that rate people’s levels of marijuana inebriation.

The overwhelming message from the panel was that journalists still need the same skills as they always did and that UGC is just another source that should be treated no differently to any other tip. It needs to be verified independently. Carvin said the first thing he advises his journalists to do is to get the source out of ‘social’, by making a phone call or meeting in person. Erik Martin mentioned that this change is nothing new to journalism as he quipped that 50 years ago people were probably worried about ‘town hall generated content’ or ‘late night bar generated content’. Little added that social media just reflects what humans have been doing for centuries – talking about events, making jokes and interacting.

You can find some notes from the event here and the event curated Storify here.

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