Live Streaming Services and the Changing Landscape of Journalism

It is not surprising that this tweeter mentality aligns with the ideas of younger viewers. In a recent survey which researched the news habits of the 20-something age group, live streaming was assessed to be used by 18% of internet users aged 18-29. This figure is quite significant when you consider that streaming and other internet media services have only emerged within the last decade. Future growth of live streaming can only be expected to increase as more young people, already engrossed in on-demand culture, have access to high-speed internet connections and are able to access streaming content on a more regular basis.

Live streaming services have become a common tool for communication and journalism in the modern world. This technology has opened a new platform for communicating news to the public or, perhaps more to the point, in which viewers are allowed to create the news themselves. Two-way broadcasts, which give viewers the capabilities to choose their own angle or story within a news event, are the defining difference that sets live streaming apart from other news mediums. This is a reflection of the “on-demand culture” in which viewers are looking for more interactivity within media use and the chance to decide what they want to watch and when.

Overview of Live Streaming Services

The impact that live streaming services have on journalism can vary. In terms of news reporting, live streaming has the advantage of immediacy and allows events to be broadcast free from editing. This, in turn, makes live-streamed content more raw and potentially more revealing than edited news pieces and is often releasing news and events as they happen with little delay. For major events or news stories, a live stream can be a great way to keep the audience continuously engaged and can be coupled with social media to allow public interaction and stay connected with reader opinion. The ability to discuss events with public opinion so close should not be understated, as the news itself can be directed or expanded upon through the viewer, and live streaming allows that in a way that is not possible via traditional media.

Live streaming is essentially transmitting live video over the internet. There are many services that offer this platform, such as Livestream, Ustream, YouTube Live, and Twitch, to name but a few. Live streaming has been used by private citizens for personal use (such as webcams) and by businesses to set up meetings or even celebrity interviews from studio settings. However, one of the primary uses for live streaming is now to transmit news events as they happen, whether they are scheduled, such as political speeches or major public events, or emergencies such as natural disasters and acts of terrorism. The ability to record these events and then have them immediately available means that the events can be talked about while they happen, often giving a different perspective of interpretation for the viewers and allowing a more immediate interaction between journalists and the audience. This medium has been so successful that even some traditional media outlets are starting to abandon scheduled events of their own to publish news online.

A relatively new development in how people access news and events as they unfold is through the use of live streaming services. Live streaming has been around for over a decade, but with recent advancements in internet speed and the near ubiquity of the internet itself, live streaming is now becoming a near essential tool in relaying news, especially among younger demographics who are eschewing traditional media outlets for online platforms. In this essay, we will explore the impact of live streaming on journalism and try to predict what the future of news may become.

In recent years, the rapid advancements in technology have significantly changed the landscape of modern-day journalism. Gone are the days when news could only be disseminated through newspapers, radio, and television. With the introduction of the internet, we now live in a digital age where news can be accessed from a wide range of sources, and the advancements of internet capability on mobile devices means that news can be accessed virtually anywhere at any time.

Impact of Live Streaming on Journalism

Live streaming can also be easily archived and shared around the internet in a variety of formats. This contrasts old television news broadcasts, which can be harder to access without specialized recording devices and aren’t easily shared around the world.

Another way live streaming changes journalism is that the traditional top-down media gatekeeping control is damaged. Anybody now has the ability to be a journalist, with live streaming bringing an authentic view of news events to the public from the eyes of real people. This can bypass the more filtered views a person receives from traditional news sources.

Live streaming is changing journalism in a variety of ways, the first being the speed at which news can be delivered to the public. The age-old days of waiting for the 6 o’clock news or the morning paper are gone. Social media’s fast sharing of news stories already began to speed up the news cycle, and with live streaming, news can be delivered to the public as soon as it happens. This can be seen as both a positive and negative change to the way news is delivered and will be discussed further in the essay.

Live streaming is the broadcasting of real-time video to an audience over the internet. The video being broadcast can be from a variety of sources, from computer screens or other digital display devices to cameras and video cameras. The most popular form of live streaming today is via the internet on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live or Facebook Live. Live streaming has evolved into a popular form of media and is a key component of the changing landscape of journalism.

Benefits of Live Streaming in Journalism

Considering the mounting social significance of the election, this study takes on importance in the current journalistic climate. The public is growing increasingly reliant on media and social media for election coverage, including party platforms, candidate information, and information about the candidate’s character. Expectations for speed in news delivery are higher than ever before. This study provides important insights into the primary source of election news for many Americans, their journalistic value, and their overall impact on public evaluation of the candidates. With almost half of the electorate using a streaming source when learning about the election, the public may find itself being influenced by error-laden advertisements more than previous generations. The potential for streaming and televised source use to influence public opinion and ultimately change election results is a critical area for future research. Finally, the study provides rare comparative results about a specific subset of media (video ads) delivered in a similar format with different technologies (streaming versus television). This is crucial information for campaigns or political action committees that are considering the most cost-effective means to sway public opinion come election time.

Real-time Reporting

When a news event happens, public accessibility to the information is important. In times of crisis, people want to know what is happening. Live streaming the news gives access to the public to the information and the raw footage of an event. Interviews with people and/or authorities can still be done, and the interviewee can tell their side of the story while it is still fresh in their mind. This can be especially important if there is an event that may be a public safety concern. An immediate and direct representation of the news event can effectively inform the public in a manner in which they can respond effectively. An example would be a severe weather event and warning that takes place in a specific location. A live stream can inform people there what is happening and what they need to do. This is far more effective than a report that is given after the event but does not reflect what really happened.

News that is disseminated at a later time can be the fault of the reporter or at fault to an editor who may have skewed the news story in a direction that does not effectively inform the public. To counteract this, there needs to be a way to report the news effectively with an understanding of the event in realistic time. This means that reports need to be done out in the community, interviews need to be conducted, and the information needs to be relayed to the public during or immediately following the event. Live streaming the news does this effectively. A real-time news report and the use of internet video streaming services have abundant advantages to an online news website.

When a journalist goes out into a community to find a story, it can take a good share of time to prepare, assess, report, and then disseminate that information to the public. Normally, the dissemination is done from the newsroom after the story has been posted. For many of us, we believe the news is meant to inform us on events happening in the world in the present or recent time. Many forms of journalism do this effectively, but news that is disseminated at a later time can, at times, fail to properly inform the public in a manner in which they can act or respond to the news event.

Increased Audience Engagement

An interesting example that illustrates the potential of live streaming tools is when Twitter recently signed a $10m deal with the NFL for the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games during the 2016 season. As part of the deal, Twitter was given the ability to allow the audience to watch the games while also viewing and participating in a live conversation with other viewers on the same screen. This may be a prototype live streaming event for a sports broadcast, but it emphasizes the potential of allowing web-based audiences to watch a program while having the ability to actively engage with the content, be it asking questions, having discussions, or making comments on the stream.

During recent years, journalists have been considering the use of live video platforms as a new tool to engage with global audiences. The aim was to increase the level of engagement between the journalist and the audience and to make the news a more interactive and participatory experience. Live streaming tools are seen as a cost-effective way of getting audiences actively involved in news stories or breaking news events. Live blogs have been commonly used by news organizations to provide incremental updates on breaking stories such as court cases, political events, sports events, etc., but they can be extremely difficult to effectively engage an audience and keep them interested. Live video streaming can change this by giving the journalist a platform to speak directly to the audience. This could pave the way for a new form of online interviewing in which users can submit their own questions, and no doubt a significant increase in news-based Q&A sessions. Even the simplest form of live stream involving a journalist discussing a certain news topic while simply sitting in front of a webcam has the potential to make the news a much more personal and human experience for the audience. Due to the expected widespread use of live streaming technology in all areas of journalism, it is expected that these tools will become an essential feature for all major news organizations.

Cost-effectiveness

By using the internet as the means of distributing the news, in the form of text news or online journalism, it will reduce the need for foreign correspondents. But to cover stories on the spot, using conventional means of distributing the news will need more than one source. And the future of internet journalism itself will still need high-speed broadcasting such as broadband to fully utilize multimedia elements available for news presentation. On the other hand, the cost needed to do broadcast via high-speed internet to cover stories overseas is not much different from radio or TV broadcast using conventional means. Here is when live streaming comes as a solution. It is the most cost-effective means of news gathering. Because using only a PC/notebook and a broadband internet connection, a journalist can cover the news from the most remote area across the globe, like what happened with the ethnic tribes massacre in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, directly to the news organisation’s server and it can be streamed worldwide. Now it is even possible to do live coverage using only a one-chip camera connected to a flash media encoder. The news footage from the camera will be compressed and transmitted by the flash media encoder to a flash media server and the server will stream it to internet users. All this can be done with the least cost than ever.

The current tight financial situation has made news organisations focus on cost-effectiveness of news gathering. There is higher demand for news but there is less budget to follow up on the news stories. Because of this situation, many journalists have lost the opportunity to cover stories on the spot. News organisations have their own foreign correspondents but the number is limited and still, sometimes one particular news needs to be covered by correspondents from other countries. This situation will waste money and will not be cost-effective.

Challenges and Ethical Considerations

As real-time commenting from viewers becomes more integrated into live streaming services, it becomes harder to filter out offensive or indecent material. This can cause problems, especially if the stream is regarding a personal or tragic event. It is difficult to moderate comments live, and only a few highly viewed streams have the luxury of moderators within the chat itself. This can sometimes put the journalist into the position of having to monitor comments and the video, and in cases where it was not the planned purpose of the stream, this can be an added stress and distraction.

Challenges and ethical principles for journalism are always complicated to deal with, especially in the midst of rapidly changing technology. Verification is hard enough to achieve with regular news stories, but with something that has been streamed live, the potential for inaccuracy is even greater. Technical malfunctions can cause words to become twisted, and the events people see online could potentially be misunderstood. These problems, though, are not the biggest concerns in terms of verification and accuracy. The main challenge comes from ensuring viewers that what they are watching is ‘real’. There have already been instances of fake news being spread through live video streams in an attempt to make certain events sound more exciting or terrifying. And with advancing technology for things like CGI, this is a problem that could get a lot worse. It is difficult for journalists to prove the credibility of the video content and separating real news from ‘enhanced’ news may prove to be a near-impossible task.

Accuracy and Verification

Accuracy, both in the live stream itself and in subsequent news stories, is something that is commonly taken for granted. Recent high-profile cases in which news agencies reported false information about the live stream of a major event show that the public can be quickly misled. A news agency’s statement that they have not yet verified a live-streamed video or event can be interpreted as an excuse for later verifying the event incorrectly. With the new abundance of live content from sites such as Periscope and Facebook Live, there will need to be an increased onus on accurate reporting by news agencies.

Accurate reporting and verification are considered the foundation of good journalism. Unlike a recorded broadcast, the live nature of live streaming complicates a journalist’s traditional means of verification. The speed, both in which a live stream can be broadcast and recorded, puts the stream ahead of the news cycle. By the time that a journalist is able to verify the truth of the stream, it is entirely possible that the false information has already been reported on or accepted as fact. The full footage of a live stream may not always be available either. Video footage can be deleted or taken down entirely, removing potential evidence of inaccurate reporting. Selective editing of live streams can show a reporter or witness’s altering of a story or events.

Privacy and Consent

An Australian report from the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioners provides the example of a mother and her four children who were subject to ongoing abuse from the father. The children, who had only sporadic contact with their father, were unexpectedly subjected to a video call which escalated into repeated accounts of violence and abuse from their father while he was being visibly goaded on by friends who were watching off-screen. After an unsuccessful attempt to block the calls, the mother was left with no choice but to remove access to the internet and video calling services which had previously provided a critical link for her family to their extended family living in another state. This case provides a clear example of how live streaming technology is removing the control of exposure to harmful content from individuals and families.

In recent years, numerous incidents of the misuse of live streaming apps to broadcast often disturbing or criminal content have raised grave ethical concerns about the consent of parties being filmed and the watching of such content by viewers. Park et al. observe that “because live stream videos are broadcast in real time and are unedited, unwanted videos may have long-term effects.” In some circumstances, live streamers have used their mobile devices to stream real-time video of acts of domestic violence to the internet or to specific contacts. Such activities have been noted in the literature on violence against women, with concerns raised about the potential invasion of privacy, furthering of abuse, and the role of bystanders in today’s technology-enabled society.

Misuse and Manipulation of Live Streams

A recent example of misuse of live stream can be seen with CNN’s iReport citizen journalism page. Reports came in showcasing the earthquake in Haiti. However, alongside these reports came spam and unrelated content asking for money. The content was indiscriminately labeled as earthquake-related material and went on to appear in Haiti Earthquake iReports without requiring any approval. This led CNN to add a note to users, “to let our producers know if you see anything that’s not about the earthquake in Haiti.” This example shows how even unverified live streams and citizen journalism can be manipulated and confused with serious professional attempts to inform the public.

Live streaming presents unique channels for journalists to communicate their work and interact with their audience. However, it also opens up new ways for third parties to misuse and manipulate journalists’ work. For instance, re-editing live broadcasts and then redistributing them to misinform the public or damage the journalist’s reputation. It also allows third parties to make pirated copies of the broadcast. In these ways, the live stream is being used as a source of free material that can be re-appropriated to harm the journalist or benefit a cause. This creates a vulnerability that could lead to weakened quality of journalism if the journalist is dissuaded from using live streaming in the future.

Future Trends and Implications

Live streaming is also being used as a way to cover an event without physically being there. An example is Isobel Yeung from Vice News, who live-streamed and conducted interviews through Periscope at an anti-Trump rally outside the Republican National Convention. Yeung was able to cover the event with minimal logistic planning, and the coverage was intimate and interactive, with her stepping in and out of the crowd to give her viewers different perspectives of the event.

In terms of newsgathering, reporters have been using live streaming to make their audience aware of what they are covering. As shown in the case of the Minneapolis shooting, Diamond Reynolds recorded live footage of her being detained by a police officer after her partner was shot. The video quickly went viral and was used by international news organizations, which resulted in Reynolds herself being interviewed on her live-streamed video.

It is evident that live streaming has changed the way newsrooms operate in just a few short years. Traditional methods of gathering the news are almost defunct, with reporters using Twitter’s Periscope while others are live streaming press conferences. This shift in journalistic practice has resulted in reporters using live streaming as a newsgathering tool as well as a way to deliver the news.

Integration of Live Streaming in Newsrooms

Interviews with journalists and editors, observing editors at work, and participating in planning meetings has given insight into the news production process. Live streaming doesn’t escape the routine news process and in some cases, it fits in heavily to the process. Key events and one-off occurrences were seen as potential and desirable content for live streaming. This is due to the unedited nature of live streaming and the ability to get a perspective of the action as it unfolds. In the case of major events, live streaming fits into the agenda-setting phase of the news, in that the action will dictate the news that will follow. An example of an editor following through on this was how he discussed sending a reporter to film the location of a murder to acquire more information that could be streamed live. Any content that is streamed live can also be filmed and edited for news packages. This can be seen in the case of a local news reporter who filmed an interview with a sole trader that was used for an edited package on the trade of work safety in coronavirus times. In this case, it was felt that it was still viable to use live streaming as it left a more impactful, unedited interview, and the location could not easily be returned to.

Live streaming has garnered popularity and hype in the past few years for the vast number of possibilities platforms can be used for interactive and immersive media. One of the areas in which it is beginning to dominate is in journalism, with services like citizen journalism and first-to-the-scene reporters beginning to adopt these platforms. “War of Words” is an example of how live streaming is used to provide interviews with a range of different people to give a more rounded perspective of a news event. Previous to this research, there has not been an established base of knowledge on how live streaming is implemented into the newsroom. This project has begun to construct a framework and ways in which to develop and aid the journalistic process.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Live Journalism

These advances are particularly interesting in light of emerging, parallel developments in computer visual technologies, the simulation sciences, and telecommunications. The concept of virtual reality, still in its infancy, may eventually provide an ecosystem in which users can become immersed and interact with computer simulations of other people, places, and things. While these simulations may not be ‘real’ in a physical sense, they can still be observable, interactive, and responsive. Users can ‘teleport’ to different versions of the same environment (e.g. a particular news scene), and simulations could dynamically change based on new information. This has implications not only on how news is gathered, but how people come to understand and interpret news events. AR and VR might also make it possible to preserve an interactive archive of news events, and still be able to ‘report’ on occurrences from the past. For the 24/7 news cycle, live streaming and virtual reporting could become a seamless continuous process. These technologies are dependent on high-bandwidth, responsive networking in order to fully capture interactivity and immersion. As such, they are likely long-term investments for live streaming services.

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