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Volume 72, Issue 51, Tuesday, October 31, 2006

News

Scuffle at venue generates Web publicity

Prof: Amateur journalism no substitute for traditional news, 
but can serve important function

by SARAH TRESSLER
The Daily Cougar

A camera-phone video recording of brawl at a local music venue, which occurred on Oct. 13, has brought attention to a different form of journalism.

When a Houston Police Department officer responded to a noise complaint at a Two Gallants show at Walter's on Washington, many concertgoers used their video-enabled cell phones to record the events.

Two other camera-phone video recordings were made of the chaos that went on in the club that night and were posted on the video-sharing Web site YouTube and on MySpace

YouTube, MySpace and blog sites have ushered in a new era of journalism that allows anyone to photograph, record or write about incidents they deem important. Users post them on the Internet and let the masses decide on the newsworthiness of the item. 

"I firmly believe that news should be disseminated through the traditional outlets -- newspapers, television and, more and more, media Web sites today," Charlie Crixell, who teaches news writing and editing in the School of Communication, said. "But that said, even people like me can see the value in sending and receiving news in this fledgling manner."

Four people were arrested and four were shot with a Taser gun after the altercation was over.

"They had words back and forth while the cop pulled on (a band member's) guitar," said Michelle Kay, who was at Walter's that night and is listed as a friend on the MySpace page dedicated to the incident. "With the guitar attached around (a band member's) back, this caused (him) to be pulled into the cop. The cop took him down to the floor of the stage by grabbing (his) neck.

" Once I got outside, there were cops pulling up to the parking lot -- about 10 in the end -- and a helicopter with a spotlight circling around us."

In an account about the incident on the MySpace page, a concertgoer described what ensued as "intolerable craziness," but another writer posted that when the other HPD officers arrived, the situation was quickly calmed after they explained that there was initial confusion and that anyone with questions should stay.

"It's good to see that even on a Web site like that, which is mostly reflecting people's opinions about an incident, there was balance in the way it was reported," Crixell said. 

"I would in no way substitute reports on YouTube or MySpace for real journalism, but if this a way for people, particularly young people, to get this kind of news, it's better than them not getting news at all."

As of Monday, the most popular of the three videos has been viewed more than 500,000 times and it received more than 2,000 comments -- that's just on YouTube.com. The videos also have been posted on Houston.metblogs.com and MySpace.

The MySpace page has more than 500 friends, and users have left more than 50 comments.

Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

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