Friday, September 11, 2009

Citizen journalists and 9/11

One horrible day showed citizen journalists at their best.

It also brought out their worst.

Passengers on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 used cellphones to call loved ones and were aware three other aircraft had also been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Flight 93 passengers gained control of the plane. It crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and missed its mark, believed to be either the White House or the Capitol.

On the ground, Jules Naudet happened to be making a documentary on NYC firefighters when he filmed the first plane hitting the World Trade Center North tower. Whether they used cellphones or video cameras, regular people suddenly became citizen journalists, capturing a moment that was shared with the world.

The newsroom where I work showed its best that day, reaching local people with ties to New York or trying to get out of the besieged city, reporting on international flights diverted to Canada, business impact of closing the Canada-U.S. border, and the safety of local infrastructure; water, power and government buildings. “Hyperlocal” angles to an international event.

Regrettably, we weren’t online yet. That cost us a valuable experience with citizen journalists who wanted to share their images and opinions.

This week, some Twitter users have added a red band to their avatar as a gesture to victims. It’s unfortunate citizen journalists are also firing up old conspiracy theories, blaming the U.S. government at the time for plotting the attacks, and striking at the media for not lending credibility to those theories.

The Hyper Journalist


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