Howard Owens, GateHouse Media’s director of digital publishing, has responded to YouTube’s decision to remove the Beverly Citizen’s controversial video of the “Horribles” parade.
We simply cannot allow YouTube, or any other business partner, to subvert our editorial independence. If YouTube wants to get in the game of hosting video for established news organizations — which it is doing — then it needs to respect the editorial judgment and independence of the news professionals in those organizations. If YouTube is unwilling be a true media partner, then, at least for GateHouse, we will need to seek alternative means of distribution of our videos.
Now, it’s easy enough to say that YouTube should act as a common carrier, similar to the phone company, and carry any traffic that comes its way, regardless of content. As a free-speech advocate, I would much prefer a policy like that.
But it’s not that simple. YouTube is successful in part because it does a good job of keeping out pornography and graphic violence. It’s the PG-13 nature of YouTube that makes it an attractive venue for media companies like GateHouse in the first place.
On the other hand, Owens is absolutely right that if the folks at YouTube are going to remove news videos arbitrarily, then there’s no way a news organization can do business with them.
I haven’t changed my mind about the video — I still would have edited it to remove the eight-foot-long penis and some of the more offensive signs. But that has to be the news organization’s call, not that of the service hosting the video.
I realize this post is entirely one-sided, and I hope YouTube has something to say. Soon.
Wednesday morning update: An unnamed YouTube spokeswoman tells the Boston Herald that the video was “inappropriate,” but leaves it at that.