Thursday, October 12, 2006

Calamity by Phone

When a Fox News photographer used his cell phone to transmit the first live ground pictures of yesterday’s plane crash, the pictures were blurry but the implications were clear. Camera-phones are an official part of the newsgathering arsenal We first saw the now ubiquitous gadgets used in this way during the London subway bombings, when bystanders and victims clicked grainy shots of the crippled tube’s interior. But the NYC crash coverage was the first time a major news organization fully embraced the technique, streaming the pictures live for a nervous nation to absorb.

Fuzzy footage from a minuscule device might not seem like a big deal on a story covered by helicopters and countless fancy-cams. But in the world of breaking news, success over competitors is measured in increments. That’s no doubt one of the reasons why FNC broadcast the images, and why you’ll see much more of the same in future calamities. For now the pictures procured from cell phones leave a lot to be desired. That will change as the technology improves. Even before that, news outlets will use the camera phone pictures of their staff and everyday folk, with little thought to framing and composition. That’s a good thing, as information is power - even if you have to squint a little to make it out.

Why, even your humble lenslinger goes nowhere without a tricked out cell phone capable of recording and sending both still images and limited video clips. I’ll use it too - if I can ever figure which buttons to push. Weaver?

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