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Turn on YouTube, Dear

When news breaks, people increasingly go to YouTube to see what happened.

YouTube has become the DIY mall for videos, often providing first-eye reports of a natural disaster or a man-made incident, such as the random shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado this week.

Even the news media is putting its video coverage on YouTube. And some of its video is culled from user-generated videos on YouTube.

YouTube has piqued the interest of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which studied videos posted on the social media site from January 2011 to March 2012. It found that the most viewed videos tended to be of disasters such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and events such as the Arab Spring uprising.

Almost 40 percent of the most-viewed videos came from users, with 51 percent from news organizations, which include user-generated video to augment their own coverage.

This is pretty heady stuff for a social media site created in 2005 to make it easier to share personal videos. The first video displayed on YouTube was titled “Me at the zoo,” featuring one of the site's founders. By mid-2006, as many as 65,000 videos were uploaded on the site daily. Earlier this year, Forbes reported there are now 4 billion video views per day on YouTube.