November 30, 2017

Maybe you've figured out how to save your words before the internet eats them. This week's tool can help you save your videos, too. 

Hare: Hi, Ren! Happy almost December! What are we talking about today?

LaForme: Hi, Kristen! We talked a bit about why it’s important to save your work a couple months ago. I recommended using the Internet Archive to find and download old content.

Things have gotten a little wild since then. The owner of the Gothamist and DNAinfo shut both sites down and the journalists who worked there briefly lost all of their work. You wrote about a great tool called after that. Good news! I just found another one to help journalists save their work.

Hare: Excellent! This is a topic where the more solutions the better. Tell me more.

LaForme: Unlike the other tools we’ve talked about, this one is specifically for video. It’s essentially a program that allows you to save any video you find on the internet. There is some ethical grey area there that we should talk about in a bit, but it’s the perfect tool for downloading videos you’ve created when you no longer have access to the original file. It’s also great for teachers and people who are remixing video or editing newsworthy videos created by other people.

I guess I should tell you what it’s called. It’s Downie 3, created by a guy named Charlie Monroe who seems to be a pretty prolific toolmaker.

It’s pretty easy to use. You just download the program from the Downie website, install a plugin in whichever browser you use, and then right click videos to save them. This is particularly helpful for sites that use proprietary video players that make it impossible to snag videos, aka most news websites.

In the event that you can’t right click and save for some reason, you can load up the webpage within the Downie program and it’ll show you all of the elements on the page that it can download. It’s pretty powerful.

Hare: So how, exactly, does it save video. And where?

LaForme: It downloads them to your computer as an mp3 file. If you need some other type of file for whatever reason, you can use another tool from Charlie Monroe called Permute. In my tests, I found that it was also able to grab some other elements that the site was blocking me from saving without the tool. On one news site, for example, I was able to grab a PDF.

Downie 3 isn’t free. It’s $20, but I think that’s an entirely reasonable price to pay to open up the world of possibilities that Downie does. If you want Permute, you can snag the two of them for a cool $25.

I should also say that this isn’t the only way to grab online videos. There are a variety of tools out there that let you snag things hosted on YouTube or Vimeo for free. Just be careful on those sites because they’re sort of spammy. At this point, some wiseacre on Twitter has probably also already pointed out that you can use the developer tools in Chrome to find video files and download them without the use of a $20 tool. And that’s true, but it’s also pretty intimidating for the average person. This is super easy.

Hare: HT wiseacre. How do you see journalists using this? Just as a digital archive?

LaForme: Absolutely as an archiving tool. But also to grab newsworthy videos for reporting on. Maybe the local government has uploaded a video of a council meeting or something and you want to edit it and add some context. Or maybe there’s some TV commercial that’s causing an uproar. Or maybe CNN aired some wild interview and you want to comment on that. It’s great for grabbing any video from anywhere.

Hare: You mentioned earlier that there are some ethical issues we should talk about, so let’s do that. What should people be aware of when using this tool?

LaForme: There’s a reason a lot of these videos are protected, right? It’s expensive to produce them, and it’s not like news organizations have a ton of money kicking around these days. This makes it possible to download any video and rehost it somewhere else, edit it for nefarious purposes, whatever.

I trust journalists to be ethical, so I feel like I’m preaching to the choir a bit here, but I’d caution people to only download videos for archival or journalistic purposes. Still, if you're planning to download a video from somewhere else, you should have a conversation with newsroom management and possibly even your legal counsel about what's fair game and what's not. There's a fine line between adding commentary that's significant enough to signal newsworthiness and ripping off someone else's views.

With great power comes great responsibility, right? Be a journalist, not a pirate.

Hare: I’m guessing our wiseacre might point out that that’s not so hard to do in other ways, too, right? But I’m glad you brought it up. Anything you’d change with this one?

LaForme: I’m probably about to upset people because I should have mentioned this earlier, but it looks like the Downie 3 software is only available for the Mac. If you’re a Windows user, you’re out of luck. I haven’t touched a PC in years, so I, unfortunately, don’t have any recommendations for Windows users. If a reader has one, please let us know.

The only other thing is that I’ve found the program itself to be much more helpful than the plugin for news sites. If the site is using something other than YouTube or Vimeo, I’d probably just start with the software and skip the plugin altogether.

Hare: Have you saved any videos yet? Maybe early LaForme hosting a Webinar circa a few years ago?

LaForme: I just saved some stuff about the Seminole Heights murders to test it out. It worked flawlessly. And Kristen, you and I both know those webinars are best left forgotten. Please, nobody look them up.

Hare: Coughs.

LaForme: Hey! At least most of those aren’t me.

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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