Thursday, November 3, 2011

I Wrote The News Today, Oh Boy

Early this week, I started to prepare a story for my weekly news show appearance. Using my smart phone I was able to capture video the freak snow storm as it happened. Later, as I drove around my neighborhood, I was able to take a number of photographs of the damage that resulted from the storm.

This started me thinking about citizen journalism and how technology has enabled the average person to report the news. With the ubiquitous nature of the smart phone it is a safe bet that no matter when or where a news story breaks there are going to be people there who can capture sounds and images. In many cases these will be broadcast to a limited audience via social networks. But the more interesting ones may go viral and be viewed by millions before any traditional news organization is aware, let alone prepared to report.

Dating back to the Zapruder file the man on the street has captured unique moments in history. Whether it was the wall coming down in Berlin or a plane landing in the Hudson River, someone was there and captured it on video as it happened. In the past, traditional news channels were the only means of then distributing this content. But today you upload it to YouTube or perhaps even broadcast live over Bambuser and millions of people may view it well before the 6 o'clock news.

It raised the question of whether there is any value left in the news agencies or if citizen journalism is likely to replace them. In my view, we still need the professionals.

While an event may be captured in real time, the full story is rarely known and certainly not by the person who just happened to be there. We may marvel at the real time image of the plane as it hits the water but we also want to know the hero who flew the plane, how many people were on board, how many were saved and why it happened. This kind of information takes time and resources to collect. Based on recent experiences, we also want to know what we are seeing is real and not some fabrication or video magic.

I may have some great video of the snow falling and a handful of pictures of fractured trees, but I still relied on the newspapers to know the size and scope of the storm, the number of people without power and other relevant facts and figures about the storm and its impact in my area.

Maybe the broadcasters should just change the old tag line from film at 11 to facts at 11 ...

Captain Joe

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