citizen journalists or citizen paparazzi? 07.22.2005, 3:53 PM
posted by ben vershbow
If acts of terrorism are intended to send a shock through the nervous system of societies, then the media acts as the synapse chain, firing trauma through the body politic. The media society acts like an animal with a mind of its own, and now it's ordinary people (not just the professional media), newly equipped with recording gadgets galore, who perform the duties of nerve endings.
Shaken by a second round of attempted bombings on London trains and buses, my thoughts return to the buzz of a just a couple weeks ago - all the talk about citizen journalism's big moment, the photos and video clips captured on phones and digital cameras, instantly proliferating through the media consciousness. During that time, Mark Glaser wrote a thoughtful piece for USC's Online Journalism Review (OJR), in which he asks whether what we are seeing is not, in fact, the rise of a sordid, citizen paparazzi. Glaser's article contains some sobering passages describing the scenes of carnage and the crowding amateur photographers, their phones outstretched. This is from a couple of posts (1, 2) Glaser found by a British blogger who survived the attacks:
The victims were being triaged at the station entrance by Tube staff and as I could see little more I could do so I got out of the way and left. As I stepped out people with cameraphones vied to try and take pictures of the worst victims...
...These people were passers-by trying to look into the station. They had no access, but could have done well to clear the area rather than clog it. The people on the train weren't all trying to take pictures, we were shocked, dirty and helping each other. People were stunned, but okay. The majority of the train was okay as I walked from my carriage (the last intact one) down through the train I saw no injuries or damage to the remaining four or so carriages. Just people dirty and in shock. The other direction wasn't so pretty, but you don't need an account of this and what I saw, watching TV is enough.
It's not yet clear whether this latest string of botched attacks was a reprise by the group responsible for July 7, or whether these were copycats, operating in the psychological wake of the original bombings. Copycat crime is nothing new, and it would be a stretch to attribute it to an increase in digital rubbernecking (I'm of the opinion that violence in the media makes people more afraid, not more violent). There's no doubt that some of the amateur photos and clips helped convey the reality of the attacks in a way that journalists could not. But I can't help but feel that our techno-voyeurism is one of the things that makes terrorism so effective beyond the immediate points of impact. We are one, big, hyper-sensitive nerve. A few, well aimed pokes can send spasms through the whole system.
Posted by ben vershbow on July 22, 2005 3:53 PM
tags: Publishing, Broadcast, and the Press
Justin on July 22, 2005 4:14 PM:
As the author of the pieces you reference I would whole heartedly agree. The media is instilled in theatre, not fact. They twist and manipulate people into asserting things to play that drama.
News in its base form has little to do with fact. It has everything to do with instilling emotions in people.
I personally believe the situation is compounded by 24 hour news channels and a desperate need to provide content.
I don't view blogging as a replacement to media and journalism, nor do I consider myself to be a blogger despite what I write. What I do however feel is that such reporting provided by myself and others gives a gateway to the media; an opportunity to source rather than hype.
Whether the media chooses to dilute its origins or not is entire up to it though.