Steve Talbot, I Files senior producer
YouTube is known for its collection of music video parodies, beauty tutorials, and clips from favorite childhood movies, but it’s quickly making a name as a news outlet.

In August, the Center for Investigative Reporting launched an investigative news channel, The I Files, on YouTube. The channel’s goal is to become the hub of the best investigative reporting from around the world. Founded in 1977 and based in Berkeley, Calif., the CIR is the nation’s oldest nonprofit investigative news organization.

I Files senior producer Steve Talbot said talks between YouTube and CIR to create an investigative reporting channel started last year.

“YouTube is an enormous universe that should not be ignored,” Talbot said. “Before, you could broadcast the news on CBS News or put it in print in The New York Times, and that was enough. It’s not like that anymore … more and more people are consuming their news in videos.”

CIR also received $800,000 in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “Knight has always shown strong concerns for the future of journalism. They’re dedicated to building audiences and new platforms,” Talbot said. CIR will continue to explore ways to bring revenue to the project, such as sponsorships.

A four-person I Files team was hired in late spring, including a Web producer and social media coordinator. Talbot said CIR director of digital media Sharon Tiller had already created partnerships with media outlets in anticipation of the launch. Feature contributors included the New York Times, ABC News, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and the Investigative News Network, which consists of 60 nonprofit news organizations including the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Investigative Reporting Workshop, ProPublica, and the Center for Public Integrity.

Talbot said they have also been approached by Reuters, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, National Public Radio, and Vice Media, Inc.

Independent filmmakers and makers of documentary clips are welcome to contribute. Talbot said these segments would include investigative pieces as well as explanatory journalism that “take the camera inside a place where it’s not usually allowed.”

The channel’s featured playlist includes 10 videos, and one to two new videos are uploaded every day, according to Talbot. Videos cover a range of topics, from the CIR-produced “The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers,” an animated video that looks at the environmental costs of producing one of America’s favorite foods, to a series of reports from inside Syria, where a BBC reporter spent weeks with Syrian rebels.

Talbot said even though partner videos are viewed on The I Files channel, the traffic and page views go back to them, and he encouraged viewers to share and embed the videos.

“We’re pleasantly surprised by the traffic numbers since we launched,” Talbot said. “We have almost 250,000 video views and more than 3,000 subscribers.”

Talbot said although YouTube is a new platform for the muckrakers out there, good investigative reporting can be done anywhere. “You don’t have to dilute investigative reporting to put it on YouTube,” he said. “You do it because you want to share it with others, and YouTube is good for sharing. It’s how you tell it, how you engage, and how you present it.”

For more information, visit youtube.com/ifiles.

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