Is the Future of Video Journalism in Social Media?

Video Socialism and Video Journalism


Social media is drastically changing how we produce and consume the news, shaking up an industry that is hundreds of years old
It’s no secret that we’re seeing more and more journalists going independent with their own YouTube and TikTok channels
By studying the likes of Cleo Abram, Johnny Harris and Andrew Callaghan, we can see how and why this is happening
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For decades now, the human race has been consuming news through traditional TV channels and networks. If you’re in the UK, it might be the BBC. In the US, it’s Fox or CNN. Before TV, it was radio, and before radio, it was newspapers. As with any type of content, the way news is distributed and consumed is constantly evolving and changing.

With the advent of the internet, it shifted once again. At first, we saw the classic networks, channels, radio stations and newspapers slowly moving over to online formats, keeping up with the general shift in how people were relaying and receiving their information. But, in recent years, we’re starting to see something else forming – something completely new that breaks away from the traditional cycle of news that we’ve been in for decades.

What I’m talking about is, of course, YouTube. More and more creators are pursuing journalism with their YouTube channels in a rising trend. This niche is unlike anything we’ve seen before, and it’s quickly spreading to TikTok as well. So is it possible that social media is the future of video journalism? In this article, we’re looking at how different creators are flourishing on social media platforms and what it all means for the future of news and video journalism.

Cleo Abram

Cleo Abram is the perfect journalist to start with. She represents the current shift that is taking place. In recent months, Cleo left her perfectly good job at VOX to pursue an independent career on YouTube, having already built a substantial following on TikTok, where she boasts over 1.1m followers. You can say that it’s a sign of the times. 

In the first video on her YouTube channel, she explains that it was never a case of hating her job at VOX or disagreeing with them. She states that “I just wanted to take on these topics in a way that felt really personal.” Cleo wants to introduce her own tone of voice into her work, keeping it more real and raw – scrappier and less polished than her work with VOX. That is, of course, so often the key to success on YouTube – audiences like to feel like they can relate to and connect with the creator.

In her first video, she explains how a lot of the reporting from mainstream media is too negative – too fear-driven (and she cleverly uses the analogy of planes and flight to highlight that this has always been the case). “Journalists love to sh*t on new ideas as implausible,” she says, because they’re “often just easier stories to tell.”

Cleo is looking to flip this negativity on its head, bringing a more optimistic point of view to the conversation, engaging more rigorously with the idea that some emerging technologies will indeed make our lives better. In bigger, more corporate and traditional organizations such as VOX, she may not have been able to realize this. Like many other social media creators, Cleo is finding that platforms such as TikTok and YouTube give her complete creative control, which is something she’s been craving. 

Andrew Callaghan and Channel 5 News

Andrew Callaghan is another creator who’s completely switching up how we consume news. We’ve become used to always being told the news by anchors on traditional networks and channels – there’s always a voice narrating, right? Meanwhile, in interviews, Andrew has discussed similar themes to those Cleo raised – the idea that mainstream traditional news is delivered and “packaged” in a certain way. Again, the angle of fear and negativity is something that keeps you hooked and watching. The phrase “bad news sells” rings true.

So, what makes Andrew different and so successful? On his extremely popular YouTube channel, “Channel 5 News“, Andrew is forging a new journalistic path, delivering news differently from what we’re used to seeing. Armed with a microphone and an oversized suit (a subtle hint at his poking-fun-of traditional news media), Andrew interviews a large cross-section of society. He says very little throughout his videos, which is completely juxtaposed with how traditional news anchors deliver and narrate news events. Instead, he lets his subjects talk and expresses themselves freely, without opinion or judgment. It’s then left to his audience to form their own conclusions and ideas.

While many of his videos are extremely entertaining and funny, Andrew has shown that he can also cover “serious topics” such as the Ukraine War or the riots after George Floyd’s death. With his interviewing style and less talkative manner, Andrew makes his viewers feel like they’re right there on the ground, feeling the pulse of what’s actually happening. It’s raw, real, and cutting-edge – a different kind of journalism from traditional news media, which is sometimes criticized for being too distanced and too polished.

Despite losing his original channel, “All Gas No Brakes” of 1.7 million subscribers due to contractual and ownership issues, Andrew has managed to rebuild his loyal fanbase with “Channel 5 News”, which now boasts 1.75m subscribers. This is proof that his audience is loyal to him and not the platform he’s at. Wherever Andrew goes, they will follow. That includes TikTok, where the attention-grabbing, opinionated interviewees Andrew encounters are the perfect fit for a fast-paced entertainment platform. The short snippets Andrew posts here act as a natural funnel to his YouTube channel. If people like what they see on TikTok, they naturally end up watching the longer form content on YouTube.

This is a new era of video journalism where creators have the power and direction instead of the channels and networks.

Johnny Harris

Talking of favorite creators, Johnny Harris has to be one of my favorite YouTubers out there right now. No discussion about video journalism on YouTube would be complete without him. Like Cleo Abram, Johnny started off creating videos with VOX and has since become a hugely successful independent journalist with 2.69 million subscribers and counting.

With a different style than Andrew Callaghan – much more in line with traditional-style news – Johnny is the frontman of his pieces. You’ll find him driving all of the narrative and stories in his videos, showcasing that there really is no right or wrong way to approach journalism on this platform. There’s plenty of space for everyone to go about their business and suit the different tailored needs of different types of audiences.

To me, Johnny represents the very best of journalism on YouTube because of the quality and depth of his work. With every video he uploads, you can feel and see the amount of solid research he’s put into it. Johnny has an incredible skill set for storytelling and explaining things in a way that makes seemingly complex issues very simple and easy to understand. He allows us to unpackage these complex issues in a way that makes us feel like we’re on a journey – as if we’re going through a story and uncovering these scandals and secrets that nobody is supposed to know. It’s the perfect sweet spot between being incredibly entertaining and highly educational.

Naturally, these long-form stories and reports lend themselves well to being sliced up and edited into much shorter clips for TikTok, where they can find a new and different audience who are then intrigued and encouraged to watch more. Some of the viewing figures Johnny is pulling in on his TikTok indicate just how popular news consumption is becoming over on that particular platform. The way younger generations watch the news is entirely different from their predecessors.

Johnny’s journalistic talents are bolstered with stunning use of animations, particularly geographical maps and charts. It’s a trait that sets him apart from everyone else and demonstrates that just because you’re an independent journalist operating on YouTube, it doesn’t make your work any lesser in quality. If anything, it’s actually better than the pieces you’ll find in traditional news media.

The future of video journalism

So, what can these different creators tell us about the future of journalism? YouTube and social media, in general, continue to disrupt and shake up industries that have been around for decades, if not longer. The reporting of news and video journalism is not averse to these impacts.

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Journalists such as Cleo, Andrew and Johnny appreciate having full creative control of their content. By going independent on YouTube and experimenting with shorter-form content across TikTok and other platforms such as Instagram Reels, they’re able to deliver news in their own, unique ways, unrestrained by any overhead bureaucracy and invisible, suited decision-makers. This creative freedom has allowed them to flourish in their own niches, giving their audience a different, fresh type of news that they can’t receive elsewhere. This represents a fundamental split away from the BBC, Fox News and CNN’s of the world, where large (often corporate) organizations dictated what we saw and, often, how we felt about it.

YouTube and social media give us lots more choices and options. Just like any other journalist, Cleo, Johnny and Andrew can claim certain niches and areas of expertise that they are pursuing. If we want interesting stories on technology and the future, we turn to Cleo’s channel. For in-depth history recaps and murky political uncoverings, we’ll look to Johnny harris. And if we’re looking to get a feel for the pulse of American society at the moment, we turn to Andrew’s videos.

These creators can also rely on the powerful algorithms of YouTube and TikTok to build their audience instead of creating bland, generic content that aims to please everyone across a large cross-section of society. 

YouTube and other platforms such as TikTok will continue to shake up the journalism industry, and there’s plenty more room for plenty more creators. Realistically, we’re only just at the beginning of this shift in how we create, share and receive our news.

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Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK), and industry writer in the Blade Ronner Media Writing Collective. He's passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.

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