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Turkish bombing footage shows why Vine may not work for journalism (yet)

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In early February, a suicide bomber attacked the American Embassy in Turkey. The moments and hours afterwards were captured on video by Turkish TV reporters and CNN — and by a contributor for news site Al Monitor, who captured some of the first Vine-based breaking news. In a series of Vines, Tulin Daloglu broadcast short scenes from after the blast, showing reporters and police crowded around the area. It was a novel use of the platform, a test case for a potentially new form of journalism. Unfortunately, it was also a prime example of how we're still not sure how Vine-based news could work.

One of the original criticisms of Twitter was that it favored "sound bites," meaningless pieces of disconnected content. So far, though, Twitter has proved to be a valuable resource: breaking news can go out in a few seconds, updates can be added chronologically, and masses of tweets can be parsed for patterns and details. With time, Vine could offer the same thing, capturing single newsworthy moments with perfect clarity. Imagine six looping seconds of police pepper spraying students during the Occupy protests, in your Twitter feed.

For now, though, Vine is handicapped by limitations that we haven't yet learned to use to our advantage. The Turkey Pulse videos hint at a general milieu, but they're often disjointed and contextless compared to their edited counterparts from YouTube. A Vine can be put up almost instantaneously, but it also has to be shot instantaneously, in a single series of takes. The one above, possibly the best of the series, hints at what can be done with simple editing, but adding things like interviews could make it much harder. Some of the best citizen journalism has relied on picking a few moments from long reels of video or snapping reams of pictures in short succession, an approach that doesn't really work with Vine.

The more immediate problem is how closed Vine is as a system. If you're watching one of these videos on Android, for example, you won't get a card or even a looping shot — just a link to a single six-second playthrough. And if you're actually capturing the video, you can't easily take it outside the ecosystem or bring other footage in. The editing and length constraints of Vine are challenges, and ones that will almost certainly lead to new and interesting ideas. But a walled-off service can only limit their scope.