2013 College Media Year in Review: Top 5 Viral Videos

This is part one of a quick series of posts providing a highlight and lowlight reel of the 2013 college media circus. More specifically, it is a review of the year’s most viral student press creations, performers and sideshows.

1. Snowballs

Let’s begin near the end of 2013. A video posted in early December by the Emerald showing University of Oregon students flinging hundreds of snowballs has nabbed millions of views.

Captured by a student employee on the Emerald’s business side, the video offers an armchair look at rowdy UO student snowballers pelting passing cars with the white stuff. At certain points, they even stop the vehicles so they can toss and dump more snow their way.

Almost immediately, the roughly two-minute raw video – understatedly titled “Students Get Out of Hand During Friday’s Snowfall” – garnered major YouTube and Reddit exposure. It was also “replayed by media outlets around the globe,” accompanied by “so many requests from media outlets for the video that it was hard to keep up with them all.” And it spurred a university investigation and drew a few carefully worded statements from UO officials, including the head football coach (since some players were involved).

That is called mega-viral. Now duck.

2. Boston Bombings

In early May, Emily Tolan, a senior at the time at Savannah College of Art & Design, put together a fascinating video detailing the social media response of the public, press, government and law enforcement to the Boston Marathon bombing. Since its posting by SCAD’s digital news outlet District, it has racked up tens of thousands of views, earned kudos as a Vimeo Staff Pick and received the “Best Viral Video” prize as part of the 2013 College Media Association Pinnacle Awards.

Boston Marathon Timeline from Emily Tolan on Vimeo.

3. Harlem Shake

In early 2013, the Harlem Shake exploded as the viral dance phenomenon of the moment. Student staffers at The Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida joined in on the shaking fun in February with a spirited rendition in their own newsroom. The two main questions viewers should have after watching the video: Who is wearing the purplish gorilla suit? And why?

4. Lockdown

In late November, The Sheridan Sun at Toronto’s Sheridan College captured video footage of armed gunmen invading a campus building, victims covered in blood and a brief firefight between police and the bad guys. Fortunately, it was all a drill. To test its emergency preparedness, Sheridan had staged an elaborate mock lockdown – and allowed the Sun to cover it. Yet, soon after, administrators forced the paper to remove the video and several accompanying photos due to concerns they “might be disturbing to some local residents, parents and students and may negatively affect the college’s image.”

5. Canada

In November, The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard University, posted a video displaying at least a smidgen of undergraduate ignorance at the storied Ivy League school. As part of the Crimson Flyby blog’s Roving Reporter series, Harvard students were repeatedly asked, simply, “What is the capital of Canada?” The surprising amount of incorrect answers range from “I have no idea” and “Probably Vancouver or something” to “I don’t know. I’m sorry Canada” and “I’m debating Toronto.”

To read my full year in review on Poynter, click here or on the screenshot below.


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