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Experiencing the War through YouTube: A Window Into Many Worlds



Besides serving as a convenient font for images of stupid human tricks and cool Daily Show bits, the video upload site YouTube has also found a new role as hostilities spread in Lebanon: hosting a growing number of video clips with war coverage and raw footage of bombing.

For example, here you can see someone has stitched together reports from Israeli, American and Arab news outlets, showing how each side is focused on its own people's losses and struggle. Look here and you'll see a video featuring noted leftist thinker Noam Chomsky with an analysis that he posits a pro-Israel mainstream American media will never tell you.

And here is raw footage of the bombing that gives you a sense of what it must feel like, sitting in an apartment, wondering if a missile will land on you. For those who would like to monitor newsfeeds from foriegn-language outlets, Mosaic offers clips with translation provided.

There's even a hip-hop song about terrorism here; nice beat, and you can
take hostages to it.

The raw, citizen-posted videos aren't as easy to find as I would like; much of YouTube's Lebanon stuff is still clips from news outlets ranging from CNN to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. But there is a wealth of commentary, footage and analysis now available with less Big Media filtering than ever. Welcome to the brave new broadbanded world...

Network Webisodes Don't Cut It

What's the lesson of YouTube?

Besides the discovery that people will actually watch footage of a guy slathered in jello playing the piano, I mean. For me, it's the discovery that what makes a video viral -- i.e., popular online -- is the funny, the oddball, the ironic and the undiscovered.

So why are the new network TV forays into this world so NOT that?

My frustration comes from sitting through several "Webisodes" created by NBC and CBS and posted this week as exclusive web content. Highly touted as new stuff they're presenting to online fans, these nuggets are youth-oriented, relatively short and so uninspired you wonder why they bothered throwing them together at all.

NBC offered the most promising effort, presenting 10 short clips based around the Office featuring its accountants (otherwise known as, the supporting actors who will work cheap for exposure). So far, there's only three up, featuring the dunderheads from Dunder-Mifflin trying to figure out what happened to $3,000 (they all know Steve Carell's character, boss Michael Scott, probably stole it, but have to go through the motions of asking everyone).

If you love the show, it's probably an amusing bit. But from those of us who haven't drunk the Office Kool-Aid yet, these shorts aren't funny enough to do the trick.

At least, they didn't bother cobbling together a half-assed reality show like CBS has for its InnerTube broadband video site. InTurn is a reality show "starring" a group of chowderheads trying to win a part on As the World Turns (of course, there's two from Florida). They live in a house, are subjected to humiliating auditions and 24-hour surveillance -- kinda like Big Brother meets, well, an actor's real life. (Marjorie, above, from West Palm Beach, calls herself -- without irony -- a "fun-loving bitch." Really.)

The problems here are many: if you're going to do webisodes for a hip, TV-savvy crowd, why re-create one of the most tired formats around? If you're looking for young folks -- which InnerTube is painfully focused on -- why is your show centered on the creaky old format of a daytime soap opera? And if you want people to check out your broadband videos, why is the site so buggy?

Yes, I know its early days for both these efforts. But when you find yourself considering another playback of the Connie Chung video rather than a peek at a new network TV webisode, you know there's something wrong in Burbank.

DEGGANS Pundit Watch -- Hit Me THREE Times!

Perhaps to make up for CNN pre-empting my second appearance on Reliable Sources Sunday, fate has handed me a trifecta of bloviating over the next two days.

Today, I'm dissecting Bush's decision to speak to the NAACP's national convention for the first time in his presidency on NPR's News and Notes with Ed Gordon, guest hosted by Farai Chideya.

Tonight, I'm dissecting online news and video with an executive from Video Google on Tampa Digital Studios' Media Talk show.

And tomorrow night, I'll be appearing on Rob Lorei's Florida This Week show for WEDU, likely talking about the death of Tampa's Urban League and, perhaps, rumors of Katherine Harris as a target of a federal investigtion.

What can I say? I work for nothing and I'm available. One of these days, I'll get a show of my own and get paid for all this bloviating...

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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