WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Viral Video Isn't Necessarily News

Jan 30, 2019

A video taken in Washington D.C. on January 18 appears to show white high school students from Kentucky mocking a Native American man. Some of the high school students are wearing red "Make America Great Again" caps. The video went viral on social media, and numerous news media outlets picked up the story even though none had a reporter on the scene. In the following days, the narrative of what happened that day in D.C. changed as more video was released.

Shop Talk panelist Will Buss said news outlets should do research and reporting instead of jumping to conclusions based on a video from social media.  He feels the video was used by some outlets for its shock value.

Buss also believes some outlets rushed to be first with the story.  He said it’s good to be first but it’s more important to be correct.

Panelist Rich Egger questioned whether the video was newsworthy. He said demonstrations are common in Washington and he wouldn’t be surprised if they sometimes lead to confrontations.  He called it “sloppy reporting” to base a story on a viral video without learning more information.

Egger feels democracy would benefit if civics classes included a section about journalism so that more Americans learn the difference between journalism and a viral video.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton suggested some newsrooms need to take that class too.  She said some new outlets love viral video but they don’t do any research into it. She said that’s a big problem with journalism right now.

Crighton said news outlets that reported the story based only on the video failed to get the whole story.

Shop Talk is a panel discussion featuring Jasmine Crighton, News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University; Will Buss, who teaches in the Department of Broadcasting and Journalism at WIU and advises the student editors at the Western Courier; and TSPR News Director Rich Egger.