The UpTake: Alternative news gathering and reporting
Legal Current recently caught up with Michael McIntee, co-founder and executive producer of The UpTake, for a fascinating conversation about alternative news gathering and reporting.
Those who follow politics are probably familiar with TheUpTake.org, which bills itself as a “citizen-fueled news” site. The site originated in 2007 as an experiment to see how technology could impact coverage of the Republican National Convention, which was held in St. Paul in 2008.
While it is quite common today to record video from smart phones and other mobile devices, it was almost unheard of 2008. So when The UpTake had average citizens recording raw, unedited footage on the streets outside the Republican National Convention, the world was able to witness first-hand what the major TV networks either wouldn’t or couldn’t show because they were barricaded behind heavy security.
The UpTake’s profile increased dramatically during the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota, between Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman, and democratic challenger, Al Franken. The Uptake provided full coverage of the recount process, winning accolades and citations from fellow news blogs, local Minnesota news outlets, and even national publications such as the Huffington Post. Nearly 10,000 people were watching the live feed on any given day.
On January 5, 2009, when the final batch of absentee ballots in the recount were opened, checked, sorted, and counted, The UpTake broadcast the process live via streaming video on TheUpTake.org. Its initial count for DFL candidate Al Franken‘s lead after the absentee ballots were sorted aloud was 223; the number appeared on breaking reports on other websites.
And little did they know then, but The UpTake was ahead of the game when it came to technology. By using a little-known platform called Twitter, they beat the major networks when it came to reporting a story. Crowds could self-report on what was happening by linking to a live Twitter feed on The UpTake’s homepage (or use previously recorded footage, which was also housed on TheUpTake.org).
This kind of “citizen journalism,” as it is often referred to, proved to be so successful that The UpTake continued on. According to McIntee, the site is all about transparency. “People call it citizen journalism but I prefer to call it journalism that is sourced by ordinary citizens. We really do care about the truth. We are a news organization and not just there to make a partisan point. We use volunteer input and labor to make the site work.”
According to McIntee, almost all the legislative videos that the Minneapolis Star Tribune put out last year were produced by The UpTake. “We have media partners throughout the country that pick up our videos,” he said. “We do more live media coverage of the legislature than anyone else in the state.”
And The UpTake is still using Twitter. Since sorting through all those hours of video can be time-intensive, especially for media organizations who might not have the resources, The UpTake has developed a tool utilizing Twitter that can help in identifying important moments in any event (government or otherwise) and turn them into video clips that can be shared. It’s the first step in their plan to make video more usable, searchable and meaningful. This tool essentially turns Tweets into edit points in a video. It works with most video editing programs and it has been instrumental in The UpTake’s ability to quickly comb through 16 or more hours of Minnesota legislative video a day and identify key moments.
To learn more about The UpTake, visit www.TheUpTake.org.