How we cover: protests
Since Donald Trump took his seat in the White House, cities and capitals across the world have been echoing to the clamour of protest. A staggering 500,000 participants are estimated to have attended Washington DC’s ‘Women’s March’, while a protest this week against right wing political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos allegedly saw fireworks launched at police.
Discontent is in the air, and these demonstrations have irrevocably forced their way onto the news agenda. However our clients wish to portray the protesters and their motives, it is our duty as Newsflare journalists to make sure we provide them with compelling footage. We have been kept busy; the office has been ringing all week with sounds of mass chanting escaping from our researcher’s headphones.
Yet protests, to a greater extent than many news events we cover, require planning and organisation. One of the main advantages of having a global network of videographers is that they can be at the right place at the right time if and when something happens. But due to social media, news organisations will know about a demonstration long before it takes place. As soon as all the major news networks start bringing their cameras down, the role of the citizen journalist changes somewhat.
Like any other piece of content, our clients want something different. Footage of crowds marching and chanting is usually too generic. We’re after vignettes that detail the individual human aspects of a demonstration. User generated content has a great way of telling stories in a first-hand, immediate way. While aerial shots put out by traditional news outlets may provide an objective sense of scale, smartphone footage portrays the drama and emotion of actually being there.
Newsflare journalist Antia Geada is a keen grassroots storyteller, and one of our foremost experts when it comes to documenting protests. She was able to provide us with some of the key elements that she looks for when covering a political demonstration.
“Every time a protest happens somewhere in the world we look for videos beyond the mainstream media coverage as we know most of our clients can get this content easily by other means,” she wrote.
“We would focus on finding footage of violent and chaotic scenes showing police clashing with protesters, people being arrested or creating barricades. This is where UGC becomes really powerful as most of the videos captured by members of the public are usually filmed from the inside of the conflict and thus offer a more personal and interesting insight,”
“Another key element I look for when sourcing protest videos is what I call the ‘unique’ incident; when something unusual happens,” she continued.
“I will always remember the Serbians throwing toilet paper to the Parliament house following the controversial demolition of buildings in the country’s capital as well as the massive women’s crowd doing the ‘vikings’ chant in Iceland to protest against the gender pay gap”
“Essentially those kind of moments that would stick in your audience’s mind as they portrait a different angle into a given news topic”, she added.
Protests are divisive by nature. And editorially, protest coverage can run the risk of sounding partisan. As such, we have strict journalistic rules for how we report on political demonstrations, as we do for all other news stories.
Being a video marketplace, we have no motive other than connecting our contributors with media networks. As such, our aim when pitching a video to our clients is to provide unbiased copy that serves the purpose of detailing all the key facts that are involved. We are always careful not to credit or discredit the reasons for the protest, and we avoid making any value judgements as a matter of journalistic principle.
Tensions are running high on the political front, and at times like these user generated footage can be invaluable in documenting how people are really responding. With ‘fake news’ making all-too-frequent appearances on social media, the role of responsible reporting has never been more valued.
2017 looks to be another political battleground. For many, the decisions being made by world leaders have aroused an activism and sense of collectivity that was previously dormant. The image of thousands of people turning out in solidarity will always be particularly potent for our news clients. It is our job to make sure we’re sourcing and providing them with compelling, yet responsibly documented footage.