Mainstream Western media is faced with a challenging task in covering the situation in the country of Georgia (again, that’s the COUNTRY of Georgia).

It’s a nation that even the most educated Westerners know very little about, politicians and government officials – let alone the news media – are not sure of the Russian and Georgian governments’ motivations or what they are doing on the ground and the Western press isn’t even allowed to go to the most hard-hit areas of fighting.

Enter CNN’s IReport. While the most popular videos on CNN were about prostitutes and a whale who mistook a yacht for its mother, the conflict in Georgia had the top tag on Monday afternoon on the Turner news organization’s amateur video page. And these videos are not your normal user-generated fare.

Many of the reports come from a “superstar” user named Georgian82 and are of professional quality.

This videographer has pages of gripping footage that shows access to victims of the war, videos of hospitals in the country and photos of Georgian communities being atacked. While the New York Times was left to bemoan its lack of coverage, Georgian82 has actual video from inside the van of Turkish journalists under fire from Russian troops.

It’s not clear if Georgian82 is a professional reporter, himself, or just a regular citizen with a video camera and a good journalistic sense. But his reports from the front of this conflict give it a depth that CNN, the Times or any other Western outlet can’t get, at least at the moment.

To be fair, CNN does have several videos on its page about Georgia, but they’re the usual reporter-giving-analysis stories intercut with footage from Russian (or Georgian) TV of tanks rolling through burnt-out villages.

Another bastion of amateur reporting, YouTube, is in even worse shape than the mainstream press when it comes to the Russo-Georgian conflict. First, of course, you have to navigate past the Georgia bigfoot videos. Once you’re clear of that, you’re left with a political scientist with a gigantic beard giving his support to the Russian invasion, a montage of war footage set to John Lennon’s Imagine and various other re-purposed content from Fox News and CNN.

Before I knew it I was transfixed by a 10-minute video showing giant coffins with a computerized voice talking about how Bush and his cohorts are out to exterminate 90% of the world’s population in the next couple months, all set to some creepy muzak.

Not exactly what I was looking for.  And it helps to explain why iReport is getting so much traffic.  It’s good.  A niche user-generated site with compelling content that’s finally providing some form to the amorphous movement/community/idea that is “citizein journalism.” 

Nice job, CNN and iReport.  Now if only you two could somehow make news regarding global conflicts as popular as that whale without a momma.

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