In Collette Snowden’s Article, “As it happens: Mobile Communications Technology, journalists and Breaking News”, she makes it apparent that mobile devices have put the tools used to be a journalist in the hands of hundreds of thousands of inexperienced people. Previously devices, equipment, and transportation only available to members of the press made the act of journalism exclusive to those educated in that field. Presently, the advent of mobile technologies and the relatively cheap nature of possessing such technologies, makes it easier for your average user to produce content on the spot. Whether it be through a video, pictures or even live postings of events as they are happening, people have a tendency to report the things they see daily no matter how boring or menial they are. Snowden also mentions the fundamentals journalism and how they are being challenged by wide spread use of mobile technologies.
It is hard for professional journalists to mobilize and get to where the story is happening as it is happening. Not only does it cost a lot of money to get them on scene, film the event, and keep them their for continued coverage but it also requires a lot of time. In news time is of the utmost importance, without attention to it news wouldn’t be new. If the reporter were to show up at the scene of a story and begin to report on it a few hours after another reporter had started covering it, that story would no longer be news. What is becoming more prevalent is the use of user generated content to drive news stories because it is easier to take accounts from citizens where the event is than to send a journalist out to cover the story.
So if we are beginning to see more and more user generated content in mainstream news how does this affect the way in which these news agencies maintain credibility? Journalism is an honor driven career path that derives credibility from a set of moralistic standards that are learned. Without this system it would be hard to decipher as an audience member what was truth and what was fiction. Journalism is becoming more and more of an amateur sport and it is becoming exceedingly more difficult to define the lines between fact, opinion, and speculation.
Gerard Goggin argues that camera phones are widely changing the face of social interactions. The camera phone is used to share image files over a tele-communications network or to the internet. Goggin argues that camera phones are more or less always on ready to capture the next horrific beast, ripping up the New York City. Much like Snowden’s arguments, when events happen many peoples first reactions are to grab their phone and get some footage of that event.
Goggin also argues that camera phones allow their owners to record events for later viewings and extend the reach of place into the digital realm. This concept of place and time that he speaks of are typical binders to such content, in other words events are bound to space and time however when recorded onto a portable device the event is no longer limited to its space or time, it can be viewed virtually anywhere at anytime. In the context of news gathering, this process of content collection and distribution further distances the distinction of what is credible and what isn’t. He also makes the argument that camera phones create context, however I beg to differ. I believe camera phones and journalistic practices carried out through the general public take away from the context of the event being recorded.
Twitter is a good example where content is delivered but not necessarily the context of said content. On twitter users can post short one hundred and forty character blurbs about anything from views on the current political climate to whatever happens when Jaden Smith tries to turn his brain on.
Many news agencies today source a lot of their content for their shows from twitter accounts, most of the time it comes in the form of reactions to certain events, but every so often the tweets are first hand accounts. If anything this should not be considered a proper news source to shape opinions and present arguments. The very structure of twitter forces the user to be ambiguous with their statements through the maximum one hundred and forty-letter count. Even the hashtags meant to organize and remove some of that ambiguity, become rather ambiguous themselves. To me this takes away not only credibility from the author of the story but also the news agency as a whole. Twitter also gives users the ability to post pictures. If these pictures are picked up by a news firm and are of a sensationalist nature there will be little to no context behind the image. Say you view an image or video online of two people fighting taken and posted by an eyewitness to the event. The online viewer would first ask “well why are they fighting?” and that question is nearly impossible to answer because there is hardly available information and the recorder is more than likely to have just witnessed the event and not the context behind it.
An example of this is the image above of a child’s toy laying in the rubble of a bombed out building in the Israeli Hezbollah conflict. The Image is very moving and reveals a lot about the conflict itself in the sense of causality. However, the photographer, Ben Curtis, has received a lot of criticism about the possibility of the image being staged. He has denied that he himself staged the placement of the toy but does not deny that it may have been placed there by a civilian. The context of this image is key to its meaning, these accusations destroy its cultural significance in relation to the story. Before the accusation the audience infers the context, which would have been that Israeli missiles have been targeted at civilian homes.
On the converse there are a few applications of twitter that are of more trustworthy sources than the common person. The hacker group that calls themselves ANON revealed a twitter group promising the truth. Durring the Boston bombings and search for the culprits the anon twitter feed gave users a vital live feed of what was happening (police scanners/reports and other such things). It became the only source that I trusted on the subject because the mainstream news websites only featured events like the bombings itself or speculation as to who it was and no actual updates on the event.
In conclusion apps like twitter can have a place in journalism for very specific needs and should never be the basis of a news agencies findings. Otherwise the news is no longer news at this point it becomes non credible speculation.
Snowden, C. (). As it happens: Mobile Communications Teachnology. The Mobile Medis Reader (). : . (Original work published )
Goggin, G. (2006). On Mobile Photography . Cell phone culture: mobile technology in everyday life (). London: Routledge.
(2013). Jaden Smith : Words of Wisdom : .