the tipping point for citizen journalism? 07.13.2005, 12:25 PM
posted by ben vershbow
We are fast approaching a point when there will be as many cameras as there are points of view. Everyone is an eye with a record button - embedded, as it were, in the trenches of everyday life. In the week that has passed since the bombs rocked London, major newspapers and television networks have run images and grainy video clips captured by ordinary people on their cellphones and digital cameras. Flickr has become a clearinghouse for July 7 terror blast images. Technorati has tracked the commentary and condolences that have flowed through the blogosphere. The Wikipedia community has mounted a detailed page, through thousands of edits, that combines the most up-to-date developments of the news with the useful contextual evidence and historical background that one would expect from an encyclopedia. But it's the images and video that have made the greatest penetration into the mainstream media. From "London Bombing Pictures Mark New Role for Camera Phones" in National Geographic News:
The BBC said it received around 30 video clips from members of the public and more than 300 e-mails containing an average of three images each on the day of the attacks. TV news channels, meanwhile, aired cell phone video footage within half an hour of the explosions.
These are probably the two most reproduced images:
From a column in Digital Journalist on "citizen shutterbugs":
Many times these images are sent to family members first and then later find their way into the river of data that becomes public information. At times, some of these images are "picked up" by the mainstream media and disseminated as "real" news, which of course they can be.
The same goes for the photos from Abu Ghraib, first distributed among friends as perverse trophies from the land of occupation. I wonder about this impulse to record one's life in such fine-grained detail - it seems the new technologies turn us into auto-voyeurs. The soldiers record their crimes and end up implicating themselves. Similarly, the victims of the London bombings record their evacuation march through the tunnels, bearing witness to their own trauma. Then there are the onlookers, the passersby, who happen to be near the chaos.
Were the London bombings the tipping point? A local news cameraman meditates on the imminent decline of his profession:
Now, a new revolution is about to be televised. Tiny lenses are popping in the most unlikely of devices, powerful editing is just a laptop away and personal websites are racing towards critical mass. How long before my oversized fancy-cam looks like an early 80's bag phone? About the same time the six o clock news begins looking like it was shot by a hopped-up junkie with a twitchy digital, I'm guessing. The next ten years promise to feature a rapid breakdown of my chosen craft. Whatever new paradigm takes hold, it's a safe bet the two-person news crew is an endangered species, driven to oblivion by technology and methods that are faster and cheaper, but not necessarily better. Hopefully by that time, I'll have found more fulfilling ways to make a difference and a paycheck. Until then, I'll be here in the media pack, one eye buried in a viewfinder, the other one keeping steady watch over a nation of digital interlopers.
Other relevant items:
Posted by ben vershbow on July 13, 2005 12:25 PM
tags: Publishing, Broadcast, and the Press