March 21, 2011
Viral Videos: Good or Bad?
With the ease of uploading a video or piece of news within minutes, it is no wonder why the Internet has become a main source for information seekers. As younger generations become savvy with technology and receive instant news updates, the day old newspaper stories are becoming obsolete. Due to the size of the Internet and the amount of news outlets, the truth may become a bit lost. People are starting to use viral videos, videos that become popular through internet sharing, as their main source of news, which can lead to misinterpretation of content.
Giordano Bruno, Neithercorp Press Journalist, said, “Nothing is perfect, including the web. There will always be disinformation to sort through, regardless of any new technology or regulation.”
Journalists are described as flawless individuals who broadcast news with ease and grace. When a journalist drops a line or fumbles words on air, most people will want to watch it over and over again because they enjoy laughing at someone else’s expense. Because it is so rare to see media professionals mess up on-air, the video is often over-publicized and instantly posted online for anyone to access within minutes.
A viral video was quickly broadcasted on the Internet just minutes after Serene Branson, who works for a local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, stumbled over her words and slurred her speech. People instantly started viewing this video, making comments about her being on drugs and laughing about her blooper on television. The fact that this reporter’s disturbing video went viral with over a million hits demonstrates a high demand for Internet-based media.
According to Las Angeles Times,Branson was immediately compared to Caitlin Upton. She was Miss South Carolina Teen USA in 2007 well-known for her rambling, illogical answer to a question posed by the pageant. This video became viral, giving her a nervous rambling stigma. Viewers thought Branson was just having the same problem and were quick to judge her incoherent words as incompetence.
Even though the video made for a good laugh, the reason for the reporter’s slurred speech is definitely not a laughing matter. Medically trained professionals were concerned she had suffered a neurological episode, while others joked about her on national television.
It took awhile for the truth to influence the media because people were still focused on the humor in the video.
The viral video immediately gave Branson a stigma and labeled her as a flawed reporter. She was seen as a nervous reporter who couldn’t handle being on national television. Because the video was immediately put on the Internet with no context, it misinformed the audience and skewed their opinion of Branson.
Due to the fact viral videos are uploaded so quickly, not much time is allotted for the truth to surface. The video showed Branson stumbling over words and looking a bit confused about what was happening. Because this information was not given with the video, it is easy to see how many people thought it was funny.
The Early Show interviewed Branson after her incident, where she admitted she didn’t know her video was on YouTube.
Branson said, ” I spoke with my friend, and I didn’t have any idea at that point because, obviously, work and my family were so concerned about my health at that point. But my friend said something about seeing it on the news. And I said, ‘the news?’ And even at that point I said, ‘Gosh, I hope it doesn’t make it on YouTube.’”
Without Branson realizing it was on YouTube, she was nervous of what people would think about what had happened to her on live television.
As this viral video misinformed the audience and skewed their opinion of Branson as a professional reporter, videos have been made to increase awareness of neurological diseases. Advertisements have been created with a ‘Strokes No Joke’ message to show how serious and prevalent strokes are. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in America and require immediate medical attention.
There is little evidence to show these new advertisements are related to Branson’s viral video, but it does show that viral videos are not always misleading and can be quite influential. Many advertisers want to create a viral video to reach large amounts of people at one time and relay an important message.
Although viral videos are not always misleading, viewers need to be suspicious of the content they are being exposed to.
Viral videos may be popular because of the instant news available to viewers, but can be misleading without extra context given. As previously mentioned, Branson’s television blooper was not due to drugs, but a neurological mishap.
Next time you read about a viral video with over one million hits, determine for yourself if that video is worth watching and has value beyond scope of a quick laugh. With the amount of media sources now available it is up to the reader to ensure that the news and videos they are watching are accurately depicting the subject matter within them. This in an important step in keeping viral videos relevant and helping the growing media giants like YouTube to report important news and events quickly to the masses.