All journalists now? We always were

We’re all journalists now.

That easy aphorism has gained
enormous momentum after the terrible events of last Thursday in London.
For the first time in a serious domestic news story, the extraordinary
power was unleashed of people helping to tell the story while caught up
in the midst of events.

With their mobile phone cameras, London’s
commuters were able to capture the immediacy of the horror and fear in
a way that would have been impossible even two years ago. The
appearance of what is probably the first published picture of the
events at 8.59am, 12 minutes ahead of the first Reuters snap, means
that ‘mobloggers’ – the mobile evolution of bloggers – take their place
in the newsgathering lexicon.

Every newspaper, every website,
every television news programme found that that they could quickly get
hold of video and still footage of underground events well out of reach
of their professional staff.

These provided some of the most memorable, haunting images of the day that will live longest in the memory.

So are we all journalists now? Like all aphorisms, it’s not exactly true.

The
moblog, like the blog, like the videocam recording, like the phoned-in
witness report, or the Victorian coffee-house gathering, is just the
latest manifestation of the citizen reporter that goes back more than a
century. We are all journalists now. But then we always were.

The
latest step has been embraced, as each of those newsrooms demonstrated,
by British journalists rising to the challenge of incorporating the new
offerings into their reports.

After watching the television and
listening to the radio in their tens of millions to see and hear news
unfolding, after checking internet pages in their hundreds of millions,
the public still turned to newspapers for the comprehensive analysis,
the eloquent commentary, to be the focus of their grief.

Following
the 11 September attacks in the US, Press Gazette’s leader writer paid
this tribute to the journalists who played their part in telling the
story: “This has been a demonstration not only of high editorial skill
but of commitment to our papers, our profession and our public. It was
ever thus. It’s what we do. At the Kennedy assassination, the Diana
tragedy. At the disasters of Aberfan, Hillsborough, Brighton, Dunblane.
Next time. God help us, it will be just the same.”

Well, this was Next time. And he was right.

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