Online Social-Interactive Media affect all aspects of life now–and death. Famously, journalism was called “the first draft of history” by Washington Post publisher Philip L. Graham. But now, with cell phones and pocket still and video digital cameras, OSIM and internet access, the initial reports from news scenes (especially breaking news) tend to be from citizens on-the-spot, not reporters.* We first witnessed this phenomenon’s power in video from the South Asia Tsunami and stills from the London Bombings. In politics, recall the stumble of the George Allen Senate Campaign over the “Macaca moment,” and then in the 2008 primary Barack Obama’s “bitter” comments. Politicians know (or should know): everyone in room is a potential journalist (or at least recorder and uploader of information) and nothing can truly be off-the-record. As a consequence, pols are more guarded than ever–this was true in the New Hampshire primary, typically a time for folksy engagement.
In such a light, some media tech notes from the Mumbai Terrorist attacks:
TERRORISTS USED GOOGLE EARTH TO RECON MUMBAI: According to a Mumbai crime branch official, the ten terrorists had not come to Mumbai before this to conduct any ‘recce’ and they had learnt about the locations with the help of Google Earth.
TWITTER UPDATES 0N TERROR HELP OR HURT?: News on the Bombay attacks is breaking fast on Twitter withhundreds of people using the site to update others with first-hand accounts of the carnage. The website has a stream of comments on the attacks which is being updated by the second, often by eye-witnesses and people in the city. Although the chatter cannot be verified immediately and often reflects the chaos on the streets, it is becoming the fastest source of information for those seeking unfiltered news from the scene. In the past hour, people using Twitter reported that bombings and attacks were continuing, but none of these could be confirmed. Others gave details on different locations in which hostages were being held. And this morning, Twitter users said that Indian authorities was asking users to stop updating the site for security reasons: One person wrote: “Police reckon tweeters giving away strategic info to terrorists via Twitter”.
CITIZEN JOURNALISTS PROVIDE GLIMPSES INTO ATTACKS: From his terrace on Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai, Arun Shanbhag saw the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel burn. He saw ambulances leave the Nariman House. And he recorded every move on the Internet. Mr. Shanbhag, who lives in Boston but happened to be in Mumbai when the attacks began on Wednesday, described the gunfire on his Twitter feed — the “thud, thud, thud” of shotguns and the short bursts of automatic weapons — and uploaded photos tohis personal blog.
*See essay by Steve Livingston in: David D. Perlmutter & John Hamilton, ed. From Pigeons to News Portals: Foreign Reporting and the Challenge of New Technology (LSU Press, 2007).
Originally posted November 30, 2008 at PolicyByBlog
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