July 7, 2005

Thoughts on trying to keep up with the news in a crisis

Posted in London, Media, UK, War on Terror at 8:37 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
Unlike on 9/11, today I was not in front of the TV while the story of the London mass-murders was developing.  I was at work and therefore tried to make use of the Internet as much as I could.  Some random thoughts on the experience of zooming around the web, looking for updates, etc.:

  • Flickr is a great idea.  And the idea of having a “pool” dedicated to a topic is also a great idea.  It was a bit disappointing that the majority of the contributions were snapshots of television screens.  Anybody can do that.  What we need are people “on the ground” taking photos and getting them to publically-available websites as fast as any “real” news agency can.   Actually it should be faster than MSM agencies since the latter have to receive a photo and then take at least a few moments to fit it in to their pages.  All we really want in this day and age when we don’t trust MSM anymore is the photo itself — we don’t care if it’s framed on a page with all sorts of other articles or editorial content surrounding it, with ads, etc.  I have a cheap mobile phone, so I haven’t really paid attention to how far along we are in the ease-of-use of mobile phones that have both a (relatively) high speed internet connection (UMTS) and a camera and how the two can be used to get a photo quickly from your hand to a publically-available website.
  • Major news sites still can’t keep up with traffic during crises.  Of course it’s gotten better over the years, but I look forward to the day when a traffic surge is no longer so noticeable.  Today’s particular disappointment in this area was the BBC video and audio feeds that are supposed to be available from http://news.bbc.co.uk.  They were completely unusable.  The main news page itself, however, did quite well.
  • It’s also great to see MSM reporters getting their “raw data” to the public much faster (and without editors, I guess!) through vehicles such as BBC’s Reporters’ Log, which included running commentary from reporters throughout the day.  Another good example probably would have been the Guardian blogs, but they were virtually unusable, I assume because of traffic.  Now that several hours have passed, I see that they are once again easy to reach.
  • Another nice feature at BBC was the running commentary provided by eyewitnesses who e-mailed their stories.  One complaint I have with this feature was the lack of a timestamp on each contribution.
  • More about timestamps: it drives me crazy when I can’t find a timestamp.  Flickr users who post photos during a breaking event should include a comment that includes the time the photo was taken.
  • On days like today it suddenly becomes obvious that the ability to locate bloggers geographically is a big plus.  Here, for example, are bloggers who have registered themselves as living near the Liverpool Street Tube station in London.

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