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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Citizen Journalists

Yesterday, i became a citizen journalist.

At around 6am yesterday, my wife told me that the radio was reporting that our local pier, here in Hastings, was on fire. So, being the social media junky that i am, i got up, grabbed my iPhone and digital camera and ran out the door as fast as i could. I didn't even brush my teeth!

Now, at this point, my only thought was to take some photos and maybe some video footage, mainly for my own use. If it was any good, i might then post it onto my various social media sites, just in case anyone may be interested. I didn't even bother to take my main video camera.
I also didn't know if the radio reports were true, or not.

It was only when i got down onto the seafront and saw the full extent of the fire, that i realised that this was something a little different. This was big.
As somebody said to me later in the day. Somebody that i only "met" yesterday via Twitter by the way. I was now recording history.
I can't say that i fully realised this at the time. But, i did know, straight away, that i had to record what i could and then pass it on.

So, i quickly took some photos, from a distance and then, literally, jogged along the seafront to get as near to the burning pier as i could.
As soon as i got close to the pier, i took some video footage with my phone and also some more photo's.
I then did something that i would not even have thought about doing, even a few weeks ago. I recorded an AudioBoo podcast
Somehow, i just knew that i should record something, describing what it was i was seeing right in front of my eyes.

So, where did that urge to record this historic event come from. Especially the AudioBoo?

I fully believe that it is my time using social media that did it. Somehow, using social media had prepared me for doing exactly what i did yesterday. Using social media had taught me how to do it. What to record, what to photograph, what to say and how.

Yes, other people were taking photographs and even video footage. But, as far as i'm aware, i was the only person who intended to share them in the way that i did. And i'm almost certain that i was the only person who thought to record some kind of audio commentary as well.
As i suggested earlier. I would never have thought about doing that, if i didn't use AudiBoo in the first place.

It was only then that i realised that there was no media presence around at all. No reporters, no tv crews, no microphones, or obvious news cameramen, or photographers.
I had suddenly become a citizen journalist.
Myself and my fellow onlookers were the only people recording this piece of local history and national news.

It was then that i realised that i needed to get home and get my footage, photo's and audio "out there", as soon as i could.

The first item i posted was the AudioBoo. Within 5 minutes of it going live, i receieved an email from AudioBoo, saying that they had "Featured" my post on their front page.
I then posted some of my photos onto TwitpPic. I followed that by quickly editing my video footage and uploading it to YouTube. All of these uploads were then linked to my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

To cut a long story short. Within an hour, i had been contacted by the BBC, the Brighton Argus newspaper and my local newspaper, who even came to my house to collect my video footage. I was also newly "followed" on Twitter by several radio stations, news organisations, reporters and local people.

My photo's, video and AudioBoo were Tweeted around the World. As well as being used and linked to on many websites. Including the Brighton Argus website, where one of my photos was used as a headline image.

As somebody else, commenting on my AudioBoo, said to me yesterday, "This really shows how journalism exists within the hands of everyone who has the technology"

I couldn't have put it better myself and this goes to show that we are all now potential citizen journalists. We are the people who are normally first on the scene of any major incident, or news story.

Citizen journalism and social media have combined to break and cover major news stories such as the protests in Iran and the Hudson River plane crash, amongst others.

And apart from enabling us to be the first to report the news to the world. Our continued use of social media is actually training us to do so.

We have the technology. So, let's use it.

Just use it wisely and safely please.


  1. Your blog loads much better now!

    What an exciting day yesterday, probably not the right word to describe the events, it is down right terrible and I hope the lads responsible get all they deserve.

  2. I'm not surprised that the 'real media' who'd been found sleeping late and ignoring the story came round to borrow your footage. Good job, and very apt to this blog: Your self-training in the tools of citizen journalism gave you the preparation and state of mind to not only capture the sights, sounds, and feelings of the day, but to get them online quickly.

  3. The credit was well deserved, too, considering the exclusivity of your coverage. As you said you were well prepared & up to the task at hand. Exercising your citizen journalist credential in the future could become difficult when stories you cover have tragic outcomes as did the Hastings Pier fire. At least no one was injured aside from those wishing a grand future for a great landmark.

  4. Anthony: Well, that's good to hear. An exciting day indeed and as you say, for all the wrong reasons too.

  5. Thanks Ken. It was only when i sat down & thought about it all that i realised that my time within social media had helped me on the day. As i've said elsewhere, this really is great training for life in general.

  6. Willy: One reason why i said at the end of the blog about using this wisely and safely. Is because it could get a bit dangerous in some circumstances. I do feel that, although we have these tools at our disposal, we should use them sensibly.

  7. I'm a little bit late commenting on this, but I have to say that I've been thinking and talking all week about your photo of the pier burning and the single's not only that you had the experience and state of mind to create and upload your content - but you also had the visual and emotional sensitivity to create worthwhile content...great work!

  8. Thanks Rich. I think the use of social media has taught me a lot. Including, how to, hopefully, use it effectively. the reaction i've got suggests that the training has been worthwhile :)