In a response to my recent blog, "Six Reasons Why Every Film Student Should Have a YouTube Channel," an educator responded with concerns about the integrity of the content that some content creators might choose to produce. What kind of content has integrity? What kind of content is worthwhile? That's a difficult question, and varies depending upon age, culture and interests.
If a YouTuber creates a Jackass knock-off that earns him tens of thousands of subscribers, does that content possess a specific standard of integrity for his audience? If another creates an immensely popular channel promoting conspiracy theories and the illusion of journalistic values, can his follower's simple belief in his integrity actually define his integrity?
Art, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder. Integrity, defined by Meriam-Webster.com as "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values," is also distinctly subjective - varying between cultures, societies, neighborhoods - and even small groups of friends.
At one time, Bernie Madoff was perceived as a man of great integrity: A trustworthy, honest man with impeccable credentials who might be trusted with one's life savings. He formed and maintained an illusion for decades, stealing billions from investors in the pursuit of personal gain. Violating the trust of virtually everyone, he proved himself to be a man without integrity of any definition.
Likewise, the YouTuber who creates (willingly or through ignorance) an illusion of journalistic integrity amidst suggestions of dark conspiracies is deceiving his followers with declarations of "evidence" where there is none, or of "experts" who are not whose own integrity would be questionable. As Bernie Madoff deceived his clients, this content creator may be using and manipulating his audience strictly for personal gain, and has no qualms or even concerns about the accuracy of his content.
On the other hand, if the YouTuber creating a Jackass knockoff promises to entertain his audience with a certain type and quality of entertainment with each episode - and delivers on his promise - he might be said to have more integrity than the conspiracy theorist. His audience's trust isn't mis-placed - they're obtaining what they seek.
But does the Jackass YouTuber really have integrity? Isn't he, instead, promoting violence? Isn't he contributing to the destruction of moral, ethical and artistic values across media by helping to popularize mindless entertainment? After all, we're talking about thirteen year-olds throwing themselves into walls and jumping into thorny bushes.
Does every film student - or content creator - need to be a moral crusader, create family friendly content, and ignore shallow celebrity culture? As diverse individuals, the answer is no. As prospective media professionals, however - it's imperative to understand and develop a sense of integrity to both content and career.
THEN make some cool Jackass videos!
What's your opinion?