Update: Jarvis weighed in. See below.
John Naughton has a good piece in the Observer about Citizen Journalism after the latest London terrorist attacks.
‘The victims were being triaged at the station entrance by tube staff and as I could see little more I could do 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. In crisis some people are cruel.’
I find it astonishing – not to say macabre – that virtually the first thing a lay person would do after escaping injury in an explosion in which dozens of other human beings are killed or maimed is to film or photograph the scene and then relay it to a broadcasting organisation.
Such arguments are merely a retrospective attempt to dignify the kind of ghoulish voyeurism that is enabled by modern communications technology.
Hmmm, to a degree I can see John’s point but in fairness as was reported, there was nothing these people could do. Rubber necking always happens and now they have digicams and camera phones and share what they can see with the world. Where have they learned to do this but mainstream media itself. News copters giving chase of O.J., the TV Show COPS, instrusive tabloid bullshit day in day out where they tell the general British citizen that it is ok to go through people’s thrash to give them, the general public, the truth.
Humans have always been rubber necking and have always been reporting in some form. Was it not macabre back in the day when some guy drew on the caves of the other guys in his gang hunting bulls and showing the bloody outcome? What isn’t voyeuristic about news anyway? Human interest stories are by their nature voyeurism anyway.
I sent Naughton’s piece on to Jeff Jarvis and I hope he comments on it. This citizen journalism idea is still new to me and I’d like to see how a pro like him weighs in on this.
And so Jarvis did weigh in and stated:
As a journalist, you would think that Naughton would welcome more truly eyewitness reporting, more facts, more stories, more humanity. And who better to provide this than witnesses themselves, now equipped not only with cameras but also with the knowledge that they could report what they saw themselves. Isn’t that better than second-hand reporting?
Naughton complains that some of the material they recorded was too graphic to be shown. Well, isn’t that true of any photographer’s rolls? That is why editors edit.
I’ve heard others fret that just-people, lay people, would be too obtrusive — but that assumes that professional journalists are not. Oh, but we are.