Public Executioner meets the Citizen Journalist

Time Magazine’s cannonisation of the power of ‘people like us’ looked like being the final big event of the year in the world of citizen journalism, web 2.0 or social media as it is variously known. But then we had the execution of Saddam Hussein, footage of which is freely available on pretty much all the video sharing platforms, and things moved on again. Anthony Mayfield makes the point that public executions are, in effect, back. It is a grissly reminder that nothing is now off the record and with more and more mobile phones shipping with increasingly powerful video and and sound recording capabilities, there will be more not less of this.
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  1. When the international controversy over the handling of Saddam Hussein’s execution dies down one important lesson will remain – the mobile ‘phone camera means no major event can go unrecorded and the Internet ensures even footage from a death cell in Iraq can be available globally and staggeringly quickly.

    Last year’s London bombings and the Buncefield oil depot and Lewes firework factory explosions had already shown how amateur video and mobile phone pictures play an important part in the coverage of big breaking news stories, but the Saddam shots strikingly underline how the technology has put the tools of journalism into everyone’s pocket.

    American journalist Dan Farber sums it up this way, “While the U.S. was chasing after Saddam Hussein’s phantom weapons of mass destruction, the camera-enabled cell phone was beginning its journey from novelty to omnipresent recorder of history, with the Internet as its near instantaneous transport mechanism.” Farber, like others involved in Citizen Journalism, was not surprised the grainy ‘phone footage of the execution was soon on the ‘net and on his own site he predicts, “In the next few years billions of people will have phones with high resolution still and video cameras, GPS, geotagging, Bluetooth and plenty of network bandwidth and storage to document any point in time.”

    Later this month a one-day conference in Birmingham will create the chance for the news industry, academics and citizen journalists to examine the issues raised as this kind of activity moves closer to mainstream newsgathering. Speakers will include Michael Hill, the newly appointed Head of Multimedia at Trinity Mirror, Vicky Taylor , head of interactivity at the BBC and Tom Reynolds, the blogger behind Random Acts of Reality. The event takes place at UCE Birmingham’s Screen Media Lab in Lower Eastside, Birmingham on Friday January 26th.

    If this interests you take a look at the conference details on http://www.mediaskills.org.uk

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