It was an interesting week for viral videos on the web.  On Thursday, November 5th, Josh Feuerstein posted his rant about Starbucks’ new design for their coffee cups.  By Monday, November 9th, presidential candidates were commenting on it, mainstream networks were reporting on it (it’s still the most-watched video on CBS.com right now), and America was up in arms over it.

Starbucks red cup

The only problem is – none of it is true.  When Feuerstein told Starbucks, “I tricked you.”  He could be saying the same to you and me.

This proves how easily people are influenced by controversy, celebrity (big names/brands) and timely topics.  Put out a YouTube video that combines those three elements, and voila, you have a viral video.

On the other hand, someone who didn’t want to be in a viral video – Missouri professor Melissa Click – found herself “thrust into the vortex” of history unfolding while still being considered “news.”  The irony is that Missouri’s school of journalism is not the place for someone who doesn’t understand and uphold the First Amendment rights for journalists.

What it boils down to is this: As media outlets are working with less resources (cost containment measures to show stockholders a profit over last year), journalists are relying more on UGC (user generated content) to define “news.”  Unless and until everyone with a YouTube channel acts responsibly, we’ll have many more weeks of viral videos like these on the web – and on your TV’s at home.

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