The journalistic pros & cons of Twitter’s new real-time video tool

Twitter just released a video-sharing tool called Vine that makes it easier for people to capture short clips and share them instantly with the world.

Twitter bought a video startup by the same name late last year, and just yesterday CEO Dick Costolo tweeted a video using the Vine app:



As Costolo’s relatively mundane demo shows, each clip is limited to six seconds (apparently that’s the video equivalent of 140 characters), which loop continuously. Peter Kafka at All Things D explains what else sets Vine apart.

There are other apps that do something similar, but one notable difference with Vine is the way you use it — after hitting a “record” button on the app, you hold your thumb on the screen to start filming. Take it off, and the camera stops. You can use the app to create one straight take, or take lots of little shots, and make digital montages or flip-books.

For journalists, this kind of easily created mobile video could be a significant development.

Think of the impact Twitter has made so far on real-time reporting — making everyone, everywhere, a potential instant eyewitness who can share text or a photo with the world. Now think of how that effect is amplified when the public can easily start sharing videos of the same events.

For one, videos have the potential to be more realistic or graphic than a still photo. That’s good when you want to bring the world virtually closer to a news event. But also think of how much more traumatic the bystander documentation of the Empire State Building shooting would have been if the photos of dead victims were instead videos, with action and audio.

This may raise new ethical questions for journalists about how and when to use some citizen-generated videos in their reporting.

At the same time, it gives journalists fewer options for balancing ethical concerns. For instance, with a news photo you can quickly crop or blur specific areas the public shouldn’t see. When dealing with a video, that’s much harder to do.

Of course, that same fact would make videos posted with Vine harder for a user to fake. Not impossible, of course. But much harder than just, say, grabbing a shark fin off Google Images and pasting it into an image of a flooded New Jersey neighborhood.

Twitter is launching Vine as a standalone app, first for iPhones, that will share videos to Twitter.

Here are some reactions and videos from journalists:

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  • http://www.buraq-technologies.com/ ambreen11

    Great post on the journalistic pros and cons of twitters new real time video tool. Its really helpful post. Great information you have here. Highly effective to learn. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/paulmwatson Paul Watson

    I just saw the dolphin trapped in the canal on Vine and it felt more like CNN video reporting than a LOLcat animated gif.

  • NateBowman

    “This may raise new ethical questions for journalists about how and when to use some citizen-generated videos in their reporting.

    At the same time, it gives journalists fewer options for balancing ethical concerns. For instance, with a news photo you can quickly crop or blur specific areas the public shouldn’t see. When dealing with a video, that’s much harder to do.”

    This sounds like a pre-emptive excuse for not performing due diligence and for succumbing to the desire to scoop and get more page clicks.

    The ethical questions are actually exactly the same.
    Is it newsworthy?
    How much harm will it do?
    Where does this item lie in the balance between privacy and the public interest.
    Stuff like that.
    If I’m wrong, Mr. Sonderman, please tell me what the new ethical questions are.

    That it may be harder to deal with a video, doesn’t mean the journalist is not obligated to deal with it.

    Mr. Sonderman is confusing technical difficulties with ethical ones.
    And creating a need for “experts” to educate us, when the ethics are actually quite simple.

  • Jeff Sonderman

    Technically is is video — in an mp4 format. But I see your point about its similarity in form to an animated GIF.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=520851003 Keith Shaw

    There’s also not much you can say or show in six seconds that offers a whole lot of value other than “Hey, look at this thing” or “see who I’m with”. I’d look more at sites like Tout, which offer 15-second (45-second clips for premium users) clips that can be sent out via Twitter and Facebook.

  • http://twitter.com/jcburns J.C.Burns

    This just in: Animated GIFs are NOT video. It’s not a video tool. It’s an animated GIF tool. Think about the content you would enjoy seeing in an endless loop in an endless loop in an endless loop in an endless loop in an endless loop in an endless loop…