I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among a lot of local and national media outlets lately, and it isn’t one that’s improving over time. It’s taken Old Media a while to adapt to the New over the past ten or fifteen years, but they sometimes need a little help moving along. I hope I can help in doing that by pointing out something that has been extremely irritating to me lately.
That Old Media that I mentioned has evolved lately by becoming increasingly aware of New Media outlets such as YouTube or Facebook. I’ve seen many local news stations look outside of their own traditional means for news and information from their fans or followers. Which is an adept thing to do on their part in that they’ve realized they can’t be everywhere, but their followers actually are. For example, perhaps there is a wreck snarling a major traffic artery. A viewer might have caught a picture or video that they posted to Twitter, which the local news station passes along so that drivers in the area are aware of exactly where the slowdown might be happening.
This is great for both sides, but here’s the problem that I’ve continually noticed: Attribution. National media has caught up with this for the most part, but the local tragically has not. If a photo is used in print or on air, far too often it’s attributed only to “Facebook” or “YouTube.” Sure, that content came from those sources. But Facebook or YouTube are only acting as intermediaries here. In this context, those sites delivered little more than the delivery method. The viewer that took the time to take the photo and submit it was doing the brunt of the work.
Attribution is a problem here not only because the media isn’t taking or care to properly cite sources, but because it’s effectively taking away ownership of the content. There have been debates over the past few years about who really owns content posted to social media sites. The Terms of Service of each site buries ambiguous language under dense legalese, which makes it unclear whether or not you actually retain ownership over your own created work. Once ignorant media picks up on user created content and lazily attributes it as “Courtesy of YouTube,” they create problematic case example.
There’s also one more issue that I’ve noticed. Now that local news stations have ventured into Facebook, they seem to be under the impression that anything posted by their fans or friends are under free reign of use. Images and video posted by other users are not necessarily approved by their originators for extreme public exhibition such as what’s seen on the local 5PM news. The images and video that you’re using are quite possibly from individuals who are very careful and concise about who their friends are and what privacy controls they are using. By signing Facebook’s Terms of Service, they are not entering into any agreement with you. Don’t betray their trust by improperly passing on what they may not intend for you to. Simply contact them and ask. Granted, many news outlets have gotten better about this. Hopefully out of respect, but more likely out of liability reasons.
So any media outlets taking a look at this post… I beg of you.. please properly cite, attribute, and contact. This is something that you should have learned on day one of any high school class teaching this topic. Once you do this correctly, you’re doing a service to your viewers and are no longer making yourselves look insolent.