NEW YORK – The rapid development of video-sharing sites such as YouTube.com is giving computer users the chance to see unfiltered images of how the fighting between Israel and Lebanon is affecting people caught in the middle.
The short, broadband videos include simple reporting and pointed political statements, and are usually posted without identifying who's behind them.
Videos available on YouTube.com on Tuesday, for example, included slide shows of people hurt by Israeli bombing attacks in Lebanon.
They have graphic images that are not usually seen in TV news reports — the mangled body of a child, a badly hurt baby in a hospital bed, a person on fire in a road during an attack.
One operator keeps his camera fixed on a horizon with smoke rising from a bombing, and the sound of airplanes overhead.
"They're coming back," the narrator says.
On the other side, one video is shot from the roof of a home in Israel. Sirens wail in the background, followed by the boom of a missile hitting.
Another video shows damage from a missile strike at a train station, while yet another features Israelis and American tourists passing the time in a bomb shelter by singing a song.
Filmed in his office study, a man identified as Reb Moshe describes how Israelis are coping.
"We hear much more bombings than are listed on CNN," he said.
"They're getting an unfiltered experience," said J.D. Lasica, co-founder of the Web site Ourmedia.org. "We're used to the idea of neatly packaged presentations by traditional media and this is like the events are happening in your backyard."
But Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, said it's important to note the difference between some of what is posted by amateur videographers and the material gathered by professional journalists.
"There's a big gap between the two and it has to do with credibility, verification and context," she said.
TV networks have tended to keep this material at arm's length. One cable news channel, for example, will occasionally air snippets of videos posted online during specific segments on what people are talking about online.
Several videos posted on YouTube, for example, use parts of news reports or interviews to make a certain point.
And Lasica said it's likely within a year someone will caught fabricating a story.
"It's exciting," Cochran said, "but it certainly isn't what you would rely on to tell you what is happening."