Does YouTube hint at the future of news?

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

Journalist Arthur Kent – who rose to international fame as a correspondent for NBC News during the first Gulf War in 1991 – is taking a leap into the internet with a new website that he hopes will become the YouTube of journalism: Skyreporter.com.

The former CBC reporter and host, who has been covering Afghanistan for 27 years – since the days of the Soviet invasion – is posting short video reports every weekday about the untold stories in the war-ravaged country.

This week he's been releasing clips about the heroin trade and will move next to covering "the West's failure to root out corruption within Hamid Karzai's inner circle."

Right now, he's publishing his own reports but plans to feature the work of other journalists soon.

"We'll transition from Afghanistan, in part – eventually – by inviting other film makers to contribute their work," he said in an e-mail. "What we're looking at is as open a site as possible. We'll create a [discussion] forum within the next two to three weeks, talking about short films, mini-docs and slideshows. Then gradually we'll invite submissions."

I asked him whether he plans to implement social bookmarking, a user-ranking system and the ability for users to post the videos to their own blogs or sites – along the lines of YouTube or Digg – and he said that's the direction he hopes things will take: "It's important that we let the site evolve, to a great extent, to the realities and demands of the web and its users."

Skyreporter.com is not the first effort to take professional video journalism online. Veteran war reporter Peter Arnett in 1999 joined the now-defunct ForeignTV.com as a correspendent after his departure from CNN, and video journalist Kevin Sites spent a year reporting from hot spots around the world for Yahoo.

But if the social video and interactive aspects of Arthur Kent's project catch on, it could prove to news outlets what visitors to YouTube and other community-oriented sites already know: Their best asset is their audience.

Disclosure: Arthur Kent e-mailed me a few days ago to tell me Skyreporter.com was live since he knew I'd be interested in his latest project. We've known each other for more than a decade.