The Online Jounralism Review has a story about the Londoners who provided the first pictures of last Thursday’s underground and bus bombings using their camera phones.
The phenomenon of “citizen paparazzi” is making some people uneasy.
That naked impulse to tell a disaster story, glaring kleig lights and all, was once the province of mainstream and tabloid news organizations. But no longer. Now, for better and worse, our fellow citizens stand by, cameraphones in pockets, ready to photograph us in our direst times. Xeni Jardin, a freelance technology journalist and co-editor of BoingBoing, was aghast at the behavior of the citizen paparazzi at the scene described by Justin.
“It’s like the behavior when you see with a car wreck on the highway,” Jardin told me. “People stop and gawk. There’s a sense that this is some sort of animal behavior that’s not entirely compassionate or responsible. The difference here is that people are gawking with this intermediary device. I’m not sure if the people who did this were saying ‘I’ve got to blog this and get it to the BBC!’ But when everyone is carrying around these devices and we get used to this intuitive response of just snapping what we see that’s of interest — as surreal and grotesque as that scenario sounds, I imagine we will see a lot more of that.”
Jardin compared the behavior to the paparazzi that chased Princess Diana before her fatal car crash and noted that the ethical issues raised then are now applicable beyond just professional photographers.
“These are ethical issues that we once thought only applied to a certain class of people who had adopted the role of news as a profession,” Jardin said. “Now that more of us have the ability to capture and disseminate evidence or documentation of history as a matter of course, as a matter of our daily lives — as a casual gesture that takes very little time, no money, not a lot of skill — those ethical issues become considerations for all of us.”
The whole thing is definitly worth a read.