The video of two children fighting inside a cage while 250 cheering adults watched on had been sat on Youtube for several days before the Lancashire Evening Post was tipped off to it.
The LEP splashed on the story last Wednesday and by Thursday, it was the talk of the media town, at times the only story the pending economic crisis was put on hold for.
LEP editor Simon Reynolds told Hold the Front Page the video had been found after a tip-off from a contact who had been in the audience. Good old-fashioned journalism, Reynolds called it – and he’s right.
But the story also reminds us of the value of YouTube, and many other sources of stories which come along, everyone gets exicted about, and then forgets about.
YouTube, Ebay and Facebook all have one thing in common in many newsrooms – they’ve all been very popular for stories ‘Look at this video … on Youtube’ ‘Look at what’s being sold … on Ebay’ or ‘Look at this campaign … set up on Facebook!’ before often getting forgotten about.
But, as we’re seeing with Twitter, the real value of these sites emerges when the story stops being about the fact the platform is being used to share information and starts being just about the information again.
Twitter is perhaps the first platform to survive the ‘must write a story about something being done this platform’ race in a newsroom and become an indispensible part of day-to-day life.
But the LEP’s splash is a good reminder of the fact that platforms remain long after they’ve stopped being trendy to write about. Think of bulletin boards and forums. They’re often badly designed and suffer from poor functionality, but they’re used by millions everyday, sharing information which, quite probably, could be very useful for journalists.
The same applies to Youtube, Ebay (I wrote a story which won an award based on ebay research in 2008 – it was what was for sale that was important, not where it was being sold) and, to a lesser extent, Facebook. Just because the platform isn’t a story in itself doesn’t mean there aren’t some great stories tucked away – and so easy to find, too.