In a video celebrating the five-year anniversary of YouTube, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric listed what she thought were the top five examples of "citizen journalism" on the video sharing website, including "the famous 'Macaca moment'" of Virginia Senator George Allen, which "put politicians from both sides of the aisle on notice....there's always a microphone near by." (h/t TVNewser)
Couric began the three minute video by touting how YouTube has been "Raising awareness of human rights abuses and providing first hand accounts of conflicts and catastrophes moments after they strike." She explained: "I picked five videos that demonstrate for me the power of the medium and how a simple video upload can be a catalyst for change."
Like many in the media, the first "catalyst for change" video that came to Couric's mind was Allen's 2006 remark: "...before the age of YouTube it might have been just a local news spot at most, but it went viral online and badly hurt his chances for re-election."
On the May 17 broadcast of NBC's Today, marking YouTube's 5th anniversary also included Allen's "Macaca moment," with co-host Meredith Vieira noting how web videos have "sunk" the careers of some. On CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday, host Howard Kurtz observed how the website "soon became a political tool. When Virginia Senate candidate George Allen referred to an Indian-American as 'Macaca,' the videotape went viral."
Couric's other choices for the list: 2007 protests in Burma amid a violent government crackdown, the 2008 earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, footage of a lion attacking a water buffalo on the Africa plain, and the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan during the Iranian election protests in 2009.
In concluding her own YouTube clip, Couric proclaimed: "I commend all the citizen journalists who are showing us their realities and proving that even Burma, China, or Africa can be just a click away."
Here is a full transcript of the video:
KATIE COURIC: Hi there, YouTube. I'm very happy to be part of your anniversary celebration. It's really hard to believe it's been five years since the first video went live. Who knew a guy at the zoo could start an online revolution.
YouTube is kind of like New York City. Millions and millions of people from all walks of life co-existing in one small space. When you turn the corner, you never know who or what you'll see.
The videos I call 'water cooler fodder,' tend to get the most attention. The dancing babies and potty-trained cats, the news bloopers or Justin Bieber clips. But YouTube is actually a whole lot more than that.
Intentionally or unintentionally, it's become a window on worlds many of us wouldn't see otherwise. Raising awareness of human rights abuses and providing first hand accounts of conflicts and catastrophes moments after they strike. I picked five videos that demonstrate for me the power of the medium and how a simple video upload can be a catalyst for change.
First, there's the famous 'Macaca moment':
GEORGE ALLEN: This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca or whatever his name is.
COURIC: Virginia Senator George Allen made an off-hand remark on the campaign trail and before the age of YouTube it might have been just a local news spot at most, but it went viral online and badly hurt his chances for re-election. The moment put politicians from both sides of the aisle on notice. In the age of the internet, there's always a microphone near by.
Next, I picked protests in Burma. In a nation where an oppressive military regime keeps a chokehold on free speech, images began emerging online in 2007 and the voices of thousands were heard. I remember one picture of a sea of red robes as Buddhist monks peacefully marched through the streets shortly before the military opened fire. The brave men and women who documented what they saw and posted it online helped Americans understand the situation in Burma.
[FOOTAGE OF CHINESE MAN DURING SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE]
COURIC: I also think videos from the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 are remarkable. It was one of the deadliest quakes in history and it happened in a country where the government imposes strict censorship rules on the media, and particularly the internet. The citizen journalists who captured those graphic images told the world how bad the situation really was, and gave us first hand accounts of that terrifying day.
'The Battle of Kruger' is one of the best nature documentaries I've ever seen.
[FOOTAGE OF LION ATTACKING WATER BUFFALO IN AFRICA]
And it's just an eight minute amateur video. It proves how powerful web videos can be and it's also a little morality play in and of itself. The lesson: don't mess with Cape buffalo.
And finally, this year the prestigious George Polk Award for videography went to an anonymous citizen journalist who posted a video on YouTube during the Iran election protests. The cell phone images depicted the death of a young woman named Neda Agha-Soltan. As the Polk curator said, the video is iconic and a symbol of the bravery of the Iranian people, willing to stand up for what is right.
So those are my picks, I'm sure you have many of your own. Susan Sontag once wrote, 'The camera makes everyone a tourist in other peoples reality.' I commend all the citizen journalists who are showing us their realities and proving that even Burma, China, or Africa can be just a click away.