Expert or YouTube Personality?

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I watch a lot of YouTube. It is second only to Google for quickly getting information and has the advantage of being a visual/audio medium. But increasingly I am having a problem with YouTube presenters. In a nutshell it’s about celebrity versus expertise. My subject of interest is primarily photography—and YouTube can be a great resource albeit with certain caveats.

I watch a ton of YouTube channels that deal with photography. But I’m finding the really popular channels often have more to do with celebrity and personality than with ability. One of the first things I do when viewing a YouTube channel is to search out their other links: Website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It’s there that I get a glimpse of their work (or oftentimes NOT).

My assumption has always been (in the past) that YouTube personalities with 100,000, 250,000, 500,000 or even 1-million followers have really honed their craft. In other words I assumed that they were really good photographers—that they would take good pictures. I’m discovering that isn’t really so—there is often a huge disconnect between stated ability and real talent and craftsmanship. Maybe I was just naive.

It’s analogous to network and cable news: the news channels have devolved into entertainment and not hard news. The one exception might be PBS (Public Broadcasting System). Now I have no bone to pick with entertainment except when it masquerades as news (they are different animals). And I have no real problem being entertained with YouTube channels except when they present themselves as experts (which often as not they clearly aren’t). Now I’ve been a photographer long enough to separate the wheat from the chaff but what about the Nubes looking for help?

The dichotomy is that many experts are lousy presenters and the personalities quite often have no real expertise. Admittedly I’m an old fart and rather old-fashioned to boot: I expect my experts (or those who purport themselves to be experts) to actually know something. It’s kind of like fake news versus real news: how is one to know the difference? Maybe that kind of integrity doesn’t matter anymore (mores the pity if that’s the case) but I think it should. It seems like YouTube channels and even network channels should come with warning labels: THIS IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

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