New York shooting – citizen journalists on the scene

On September 15th 2013 (as reported in the New York Times), police officers confronted an ‘agitated’ individual and used their firearms, missing the suspect but injuring two bystanders.  After the incident, The New York Times was able to identify the (unarmed) individual, name the shooting victims, describe the extent of their injuries and report from the Police News Conference about the incident.

Before the ‘traditional’ journalists got hold of the story, however, members of the public were recording, and editorialising on, the incident.  At least one person tweeted a picture of one of the victims, almost certainly before their friends or relatives had been informed.  Several YouTube videos of the incident have been uploaded (a simple search will bring up results).  Eye witnesses claim the agitated man had been run over – the police later denied this.  The incident is an example of instant news reporting – often a mixture of documentary, supposition and emotion.

Independent, verified news reporting is considered by many to be essential to democracy.  Does the replacement of traditional forms of news media by new models of information gathering and distribution (e.g. citizen journalism, crowdsourcing, Twitter) make democracy more or less vulnerable?  Or do the two enhance each other?

Riptide is a fascinating ‘oral history’ of the meeting of quality journalism and digital technologies in the US.  Actually, it is a written report drawn from interviews with movers and shakers in the news industry since 1980.

The report looks at the disruptive influences of digital platforms, the decline in traditional journalism jobs and new digital news economic models.  The report covers the early days of teletext all the way through the development of the WWW, the dot.com boom and bust, cable news, the emergence of the blogosphere, social news and ‘pay to play’.

[The full article was first published on Information Today Europe.]

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