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Thursday, August 11, 2005

The news crew as endangered species

Technology and Society
Current music: StaticBeats Chill

It's not happening right away, but it's coming. Auntie Beeb, as usual with clearer sight than corporate media, sees it coming. A perfect storm of advancing technology and ever-tightening corporate news budgets has signed the death sentence for the traditional TV news crew. But like the typical US death sentence, there are years of appeals and delays to go through before the sentence can be carried out.

The London bombing incidents shows there's now a critical mass of mobile video phones and camera phones out there, whose owners are on the spot to cover just about any important event — long before the camera crews can even be alerted.

Mobile phones have turned members of the public into reporters and camera crews — "citizen journalists". The media are hungry for their digital images and eyewitness accounts.

The BBC received 50 pictures from the public within an hour of the first bomb going off on 7 July. By the weekend it had 1,000 images and dozens of video clips sent by e-mail and direct from mobile phones.

By the time the eastern US woke up to the news of the London bombings, the BBC website was already showing video and pictures sent in by average Brits who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Then during an arrest in the aftermath of the failed July 21 bombings, “one woman gave a running commentary as police, through a loudhailer, tried to persuade one of the suspects to give himself up.”

How are traditional news crews going to stay relevant in a time when any incident is already being covered by on-the-spot reporters transmitting raw footage at least, and perhaps polished commentary and interviews?

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