YouTube launches video channel for citizen journalists

YouTube keeps building its online news activity — this time launching a new Web site for citizen journalists. TV and online news editors can obtain video from anyone, and even request videos be shot by amateurs seeking attention.

The citizen-generated pieces can be about any subject, from the activities of celebrities, accidents and natural disasters to unusual events at town meetings. News outlets seeking footage can announce it in a variety of ways, including via call-out videos posted on the YouTube site.

The new tool could become competition for existing citizen journalism sites like iReport on CNN, where eyewitnesses can upload video of news events as well as their own opinions.

YouTube also envisions uses beyond the day’s news. The site suggested in a blog post that businesses could use the tool to solicit endorsements and that politicians could “ask for user-generated political commercials.”

When a YouTube user has a video they think will interest the mainstream media, the channel can make it easy for editors, producers and journalists to contact them. News organizations can verify the content before they agree to use it.

YouTube said it is not making money from the service. Consumers are being encouraged to upload great video, because of the recognition to be gained if it’s used by legitimate news organizations.

The Huffington Post, NPR, Politico, the “San Francisco Chronicle” and a couple of Boston TV stations are currently testing the new YouTube service. There are links to examples of such newsworthy user-generated video as presidential candidate George Allen’s “Macaca” reference, video of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in China and a teacher screaming at and slapping an autistic student.

NPR said it would solicit YouTube videos for WonderScope, a new, occasional scientific series on that will invite users to “bring the abstract to life.” Time — as in, “how do you measure time?” and “how does time fly?” — will be the first subject for the series.