Over 50 people were killed and 700 injured on Thursday July 7, 2005 when four bomb explosions ripped through three subway trains and a double-decker bus in what appears to have been a coordinated terror attack during London’s morning rush hour. A previously unknown group, calling itself the “Secret Group of al Qaeda’s Jihad in Europe,” claimed it was responsible in a web site posting in which Italy and Denmark were warned to withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As is usual in these modern times, the blogosphere immediately went about the business of letting the world know what it thought and how it felt about this terrible tragedy — as well as every other issue it saw as being somehow related. Within minutes of the news breaking, every opinion along the political spectrum was posted, from the extremists who believe that all Muslims should be herded together somewhere and shot (or “nuked”) to the extremists on the other end who think we ought to be understanding and sympathetic toward those who use violence and intimidation as a means of expressing their grievances. Of course, most of the commentary came from the blogosphere’s vast middle and was far more reasonable and moderate than that of the extremists. The point is that a great number of pixels were quickly lit up with a large diversity of opinions.
However, the citizen journalists and bloggers who deserve the applause are those who were in London when terror and tragedy struck and who shared their firsthand experiences in words and pictures. Their stories and photographs (many taken with camera phones and transmitted instantaneously) of the moments following the explosions captured the public’s attention in a way that traditional, mainstream news reporting could not.
These citizen journalists and bloggers enabled the world to view breaking news told from the first person perspective of victims and eyewitnesses so that the world could be almost right there in the midst of it all, seeing not only the horror and tragedy of the evils that man often perpetrates against man, but also the heroism and courage of the first-responders and ordinary citizens who immediately stepped up to the plate to administer first aid to the injured, comfort the traumatized and initiate the first steps in the long and arduous tasks of healing and recovery.
The citizen journalist and blogger reportage of the London attacks have taken that trend to a new level, beyond even that of the coverage of the tsunami last December. In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, bloggers posted stories, pictures and videos by the thousands and the Internet buzzed with a huge swarm of hastily edited (if it was edited at all in some cases) news and other information. The blogosphere’s reporting of the London bombings demonstrated how this process could be honed into a dynamic in which raw and minimally-edited data could be edited like mainstream news to fill gaps that traditional news reporting methods cannot.
The BBC and Guardian web sites posted eyewitness accounts only an hour or two after the first bomb exploded. But instead of using unedited stream-of-consciousness blog postings that can tend to ramble on incoherently, they ran brief, edited reports from the people who were actually there right alongside the accounts written by their staff reporters.
The melding of mainstream reporting and citizen journalists/bloggers that was illustrated by Great Britain’s traditional media and blogosphere could change the whole complexion of the “bloggers versus journalists” debate because the bloggers demonstrated how ordinary citizens kept their composure during a traumatic event to share their firsthand experiences with the world and the conventional news people showed how they could blend those reports with their own.
This spirit of cooperation between the MSM and the blogosphere will ultimately lead us to a new media paradigm in which the first accounts of breaking news are reported by the people who are actually experiencing it. Every major event that will happen in the future is going to be an opportunity to test this new relationship between the MSM and the blogosphere. And the whole world will be tuning in to see the news of it as news has never been presented before.
For now, we wait for the next “big story” to present itself, hoping and praying that it will provide us all with some good news to share.