Sad but true

Some call it being prepared. Others dismiss it as an idiotic obsession. I tend to agree with the latter. How else would you explain, like this morning in London, that upon discovering a low flying plane I immediately wonder:

If it crashes now, what news outlet would I call first, and how would I cover it?

What goes up

It dates back to my time as a journalist for an evening paper in Amsterdam in the late eighties. Living close to Schiphol Airport I had those thoughts all the time, especially around lunch time, right before the front page would go to print.

It would have been simple. A quick call, bark some witness statements, and voila, on the front page. Job well done. (It never happened.)

Having covered 9/11 as the US correspondent for NOS Dutch radio, those bizar thoughts have obviously only increased. What goes up…

And things are a bit different as a solo multimedia maniac in 2007. Do you give radio the first call? Do you first take a picture with your mobile? Do you prefer to shoot some video maybe? Do you attempt to reach a tv editor? Do you dictate a couple of lines for the website? Where do you start? (You tell me.)

I was contemplating all those options when plane after plane safely descended over London. Truth seems to be: I’m very unprepared to capture the moment for the whole shebang. Sad but true.

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2 Responses to “Sad but true”

  1. Paul Brannan Says:

    Hi Tim,
    You raise a really interesting question to which there’s no easy answer, but it’s one that all multimedia news organisations should be thinking about.

    Here at the Beeb we evolved an internal dissemination system after the 7/7 London bombings. For UGC content the material is sifted, sorted, validated and then pushed out on an internal wire service.

    For audio/video rushes, feeds and packages we have an existing operation called Mediaport.

    In simple terms we have a couple of big buckets for content from which any outlet can take copies. And there are internal alerts for new, big stories.

    So, in the case of your plane disaster, and for the sake of speed, I would suggest you used the phone for a live two-way with radio. TV could take the piece in audio only with a still of you on the screen.

    People back at the office could transcribe this and rattle out breaking news words for the web, digital platforms and your internal news wire.

    You’d need time at the scene to evaluate what was going on, of course, but while doing so you could capture pictures – stills and video – via a cameraphone.

    Quality isn’t that big an issue if they’re the only pictures from the scene, but you do need a simple way to file – company firewalls often refuse large files and you don’t want to be figuring things out in the heat of the moment.

    And if your phone is up to it you could broadcast live from the scene.

    We have.

    In reality you won’t be the only person there. Most members of the public carry a mobile. Grab them. Get them to ring your newsdesk. Put the coherent ones on air. What did they see? What did they hear? What’s happening now? Why were they in the area?

    Hand out pre-made cards (like debit cards) which explain to people how they can send in text, pictures and video.

    We are all reporters now.

    Paul Brannan
    BBC News

  2. overdiek Says:

    Ah well, then, now I’m prepared. Another example of excellence that I hate the BBC for. They’re so damn good.

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