Today we learned that the Neda video from the Iranian election protests last summer has won a Polk Award, one of the top prizes in journalism. Usually reserved for innovative and entrepreneurial reporting done by seasoned professionals, the Polk award's nod to the Neda video is a powerful recognition of the role that citizen-generated news coverage has in our understanding of the world.
For those of you who haven't seen it yet, the Neda video was shot by an anonymous source from the streets of Tehran last June, during the protests over the election in Iran. It captures the final, gruesome moments in the life of music student Neda Agha-Soltan, a young female protestor who was shot by the Basij, the Iranian state security force. The video became the symbol of the revolution for Iranian protestors, who covered the events with their cellphone cameras in the absence of the foreign media, who had all been kicked out of the country by the Iranian government.
The original uploader of the Neda video was never discovered, but of course his/her anonymity underscores the whole point of the story. Hundreds of versions of the clip have been uploaded, remixed, and re-broadcast around the world - a testament to the power of the video and the mediums that allowed it to be shared. Here's the most-viewed version of the clip currently on YouTube:
John Darnton, the curator of the Polk awards, said in a statement that the Neda video has become "an iconic image of the Iranian resistance."
"This award celebrates the fact that, in today's world, a brave bystander with a cell phone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news,"
Last year YouTube won a Peabody award, for the role it has played in democratizing media and broadening the political discourse. To see an individual YouTube video win another prestigious journalism honor is sign of the recognition that the established media now affords new platforms that people are using to fundamentally change how we are informed, and how we inform each other.