Earlier this week, YouTube announced that it had designated a news manager for the site and created a Citizen News channel. Olivia Ma, YouTube's new News Manager, announced the initiative on YouTube's blog:
Thanks to better, cheaper, and easier access to video equipment, there's an amazing amount of news being reported on YouTube every single day by citizens in all corners of the globe. You're conducting interviews with local community leaders, doing weekly reports on the latest campus news for your school television station, and investigating untold stories you think the world should know about. This stuff is fantastic, but we want to see more from you all and to bring more citizen journalists into the fold.
Of course, there is already a lot of content on YouTube that could be described as citizen news. The new channel, however, will bring much of this content into one place and should serve as a useful platform for highlighting the important contributions that citizen media are making to our understanding of the world.
As David Chartier at Ars Technica notes, the channel already includes over 70 "citizen journalists who are reporting on various issues and niches. 'Texascountryreporter,' for example, covers 'the backroads of Texas to find the people and places who make the Lone Star State one-of-a-kind.' 'TheRealNews' is a 'global online video news network' with impressive production values, boasting 'thousands of $10 donations' from users around the world." But David also offers a cautionary note:
The signal-to-noise ratio and potential for bias and abuse are important issues in citizen journalism, just like they've always been for traditional media. An established network like CNN spends considerable money and personnel to filter the submissions at iReporter. It's likely that a site like YouTube—already rife with misinformation and unbridled bias in news-focused areas—will have to do something similar with this Citizen News initiative for it to have much value.
UPDATE: Dan Gillmor raises two important points about YouTube's experiment in citizen media.
[A]s they monetize this, I hope they’re going to find a way to reward the people who are doing the work. As I’ve said again and again, I’m not a fan of business models that say “You do all the work and we’ll take all the money, thank you very much.”
I also hope YouTube will give people a way to post using Creative Commons licenses, which are all about sharing information, as opposed to the currently restrictive terms of service.
(Note: Dan Gillmor is one of the founders of the CMLP.)