"How do we help people understand what content can be trusted, what's quality? All those questions -- are definitely one's we're asking and don't have answers to yet. ... I think YouTube is a bit of a chaotic sea of content -- which is one of its merits, but it is also difficult to navigate and find stuff in."
Olivia Ma in interview with the Media Giraffe Project, June 2008
Photo Linked From: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2289/2583188750_2766ce7a48.jpg?v=0
By Bill Densmore of the Media Giraffe Project, June 2008
Two months ago, Olivia Ma became the first citizen-media manager at YouTube, the video-sharing platform that is owned by Google Inc., and based in San Bruno, Calif. It is perhaps significant that Ma's title is "manager" not "editor" -- Google executive say the search behemoth has no intention of getting to the editing business.
Ma is part of a nascent effort to inspire YouTube users to cover the news with cameras, and to find their work and give it some level of prominence on or near the YouTube home page. For her, it's a mission-driven assignment to be part of what her boss, Steve Grove, calls the "news community and team" at You Tube. The team has been in incubation since Feb. 2007. And Ma comes to it thinking of as a journalism assignment.
She says her job is not to program or edit YouTube, but to help the site's community to coalesce around the topic and production of news. The YouTube community team has people focused on film, comedy and other content areas besides news, she says.
"Our job is to two fold -- to help users who are creating content get discovered to the extent they are doing good work, and featuring videos that we think are good," she says. "So I think we do play a role in helping to surface good content, but we are not going to be playing the active role of editor. There is no analogy."
Leaving Cambridge, Ma moved to the San Francisco Bay area in the fall of 2006 and joined a startup called Plumb, a social-media sharing site -- she calls it "like De.licio.us on steroids." When the YouTube opportunity came up, she saw it as a dream job. "It was melding technology and sort of the authentic, user-driven media in an incredibly powerful platform."
"I knew that I wanted to be staying in journalism," she says. "It was clear that things were changing in a serious way and nobody really knew what to do . . . what's happening to the business model, all this stuff . . . I felt deeply that I wanted to be involved in helping to figure out what the future of journalism looked like."
Ma sees charting a future course for sustainable journalism as "a moral issue, not just a business issue." She adds: "I think that the service that journalism does for democracy, for the public good, is telling truth and getting people access to information that is important and relevant and has real effects, something we certainly can't let slip away."
Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media Blog, May 22, 2008, talking about citizen journalism on YouTube, said:
"But as they monetize this, I hope they're going to find a way to reward the people who are doing the work. As I've said again and again, I'm not a fan of business models that say 'You do all the work and we'll take all the money, thank you very much.'"