Citizen Journalism and Tweets bring Haiti’s Horror to the World

CNN has people on the ground in Port Au Prince. They use high performance satellite phones and transmission equipment to bring a Citizen journalists turn to Twitterfew shots from Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta to world viewers. That is what we expect from CNN. Then CNN begins the roll call of tweets from people within Haiti bringing real time news. Continuing with interviews using Skype with video direct from Haiti. And the innovative ideas on how to get the word out continue.

Fox news, MSNBC, all the major US news sources quote the information they are getting from the ground, or show videos received via Twitter and other social media tools. Most of the news we are getting via Twitter and social media is raw, simply passing on a snapshot in time. Then the news casters, with their back office of analysts and experts, are able to translate the news into a consumable item for American and international viewers.

This is citizen journalism at its best, bringing the news of nature’s worst to a global audience. It is important, as it brings the real news, direct to a global audience, without censorship. It tells us, as humanitarians, that our help is once again needed to support our fellow man in a distant land we May not even be able to find on a map. It allows CNN (as my preferred news source – you can pick your own) to give us “vetted” instructions on how to help. It gives you access to real time “tweets” on how to find out the latest news direct from the source (@cnnbrk/Haiti or #haiticnn).

Of course nearly all news networks and sources have a similar listing of sites to learn the best way for you to contribute – just log into the site of your choice. In California you can contact several great sites, including”

It probably makes no difference which site you use, just find a site with a vettesd and legitimate means of getting your donation to Haiti.

Go to your Twitter account and do a search on Haiti and you will find more sources of real-time information.

Tweeting Reality

Our world is changing. Whether it be a mobile phone with video or photo capability, internet-enabled computer, or wireless PDA, the ability for humans to provide real time event information is now at an unprecedented level. Could Twitter Founders Evan Willams and Biz Stone have envisioned their short messaging service, or micro-blog could potentially change global communications in 140 characters or less?

From wildfires in California, to airplanes landing in the Hudson, to the streets of Tehran, and to the horror of Haiti, Twitter is rapidly becoming the citizen journalist’s weapon of choice in delivering status updates on just about everything, with an uncanny ability to focus on real things when necessary.

Let’s get Haiti under our belt, and then start a deep dive into social networking, real-time information transmission and sharing, and find ways we can structure this tremendous resource into a much more easy, and logical process for users of all capabilities and knowledge. This is one of the world’s true disruptive technologies with a potential to change not only real time communications, but also media and journalism as we know it today.

Citizen Journalists Take On Iran’s Government

Citizen journalism (also known as “public”, “participatory”, “democratic” or “street journalism”) is the concept of members of the public “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information.” Wikipedia

On Wednesday, CNN frequently showed amateur videos, with a graphic that labeled them “unverified material.” It showed a YouTube video of the aftermath of an apparent raid at Tehran University. The video showed rooms that appeared to have been burned extensively.  New York Times

Citizen Journalism took on a very clear role this week as the Iranian government continued to deport journalists admitted with temporary visas (to cover the Iranian elections).  As western journalists were told reporting on the demonstrations and protests against perceived election fraud was illegal (“We warn those who propagate riots and spread rumors that our legal action against them will cost them dearly,” a statement from the military force said), the burden of reporting fell on the shoulders of Iranian citizens participating in the demonstrations.

Most of the reporting comes in the form of videos uploaded to YouTube, email, and updates to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  The reporting is generally a recording of events, which is then commented upon by western news media.

During the 1993 Russian Constitutional Crisis citizen journalists used email and Usenet newsgroups to transmit near real-time updates on activities as the Army moved to occupy the White House, and many Russian citizens were killed or injured.  This supplemented the very limited news media, which was not officially allowed near the events.  Perhaps one of the first examples of the “Internet Age of Journalism.”

Even in the United States, visual accounts of events involving police brutality become instantly available to the rest of the world.  This was clearly demonstrated when Oscar Grant was shot on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train platform News Years night.  Dozens of citizens recorded the incident on their mobile phones, uploading the images to YouTube and social networking sites directly from the platform within seconds of the event.

Now as mobile phone and computerized video files continue to flow from Iran to the rest of the world, keeping people up to date with events in Iran, we can reflect on changes taking place in the Internet age of information.  CNN reporters, who have been with us providing news since the 1980s, are now barred from providing real time views of Tehran.  They are taking “iReports” provided by Iranian citizens, and providing commentary on videos that cannot be independently verified.  We need to assume that video being used is an accurate record of events – perhaps a big assumption in a world also well known for use of media deception and propaganda.

However one message is very clear.  Regardless of the validity of visual and citizen provided accounts of events, it will be very difficult for governments to contain or suppress news in the future. The Internet has provided a means to instantly globalize information and news.  Governments will forever be held accountable for their actions in the court of world opinion.

 

John Savageau, Long Beach

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