The new eye on news

A weekly column from Jim Taylor.

If we ever had a day without house fires, car accidents, or political battles, our local news channel might have trouble filling its regular half hour.

I say that with no disrespect. It’s a simple reality of video. Disasters leave devastation that can be shown visually, after the fact – blood stains, smashed vehicles, charred buildings….

But when something good happens, you have to be there to catch it. Even a few seconds can be too late – the moment has passed.

That’s why the mainstream media rarely show acts of good news (except for scheduled events like handing over a cheque or opening a building). Journalists simply cannot be everywhere at once.

Thus, when a second earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, most visual coverage focused on broken buildings, toppled steeples, crumpled roads… Those don’t disappear before the video cameras arrive.

Christchurch itself, a classmate writes, “is short of water. All drinking water has to be boiled. The sewer systems are badly damaged, so no showering or flushing of toilets is allowed. Much of the city is without electricity; gas services have been turned off. Authorities are encouraging those who are able, to leave…”

But television did not show you people outside the quake zone throwing their homes open to total strangers. Because the news cameras weren’t there.

Bob and Nola Warrick returned from Canada to Queensland in Australia, after the floods. Everywhere, they heard stories of kindness and generosity.

One couple abandoned their home, and boat. When they returned, they found their boat still there. A note in it said: “Thank you for leaving your boat… I rescued 16 people — hope you don’t mind”!

When conventional communications broke down, the local telephone company provided everyone in town with a cellphone and $50 worth of prepaid calls.

Police ordered a woman to evacuate as waters rose. She was moving her books to the top floor of her house. A few minutes later, the police returned “with two rough looking labourers ‘looking for something to do’.”

Bob Warrick described “a neighbour in her 80s who was helped by a lesbian couple — and who had to revise some long held convictions!”

But unless one had a video camera right there, those moments would never appear on the news.

That may be changing, though.

Most media pundits attribute the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East to social networking. Colleague Bob Rymarchuk argues that they’re mistaken. Social networking is simply an updated form of personal letters and gossip. It’s necessarily second hand – events re-told after they happen.

But today’s cellphone cameras enable a viewer to be right there. To see for oneself the crowds, the explosions, the bullets…

Until now, big video cameras and security systems operated under the umbrella of the ruling powers. Inevitably, they reflected the authority’s viewpoint.

“History,” says a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “is written by the victors.”

Cellphone cameras, by contrast, are everywhere. They’re just as likely to show events from the victims’ viewpoint.

That tilts the balance of coverage. Perhaps forever.

 

 

 

Jim Taylor welcomes comments. Send e-mails to rewrite@shaw.ca

Just Posted

Blood transfusion saved colitis-stricken Lake Country woman’s life

Rebecca Roth encourages public to support Lake Country blood donor clinic Sept. 26

Three candidates drop out of Central Okanagan municipal election

Two running for Peachland/OK West trustee and OK East rural director candidate step aside

Ancestral remains uncovered at Fintry to be reburied

Remains found along Shorts Creek in Fintry Provincial Park during flood remediation measures

Okanagan Rail Trail to officially open

Thursday, Sept. 27, 11 a.m., Oyama Boat Launch, Wood Lake; public welcome

Growing Okanagan tech sector hailed in new report

Study shows sector employees 12, 474 workers and is worth $1.67 billion to regional economy

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Tragic accident claims life of B.C. toddler

Fundraising effort has been created to help mom and family

B.C. nanny charged with sex abuse of 3 children

Saanich Police seek potential victims of Johnathon Lee Robichaud from Central Saanich

‘I’m no quitter’ on climate change issues, McKenna says at G7 ministers meeting

David Suzuki says if McKenna believes what she’s saying, she too should quit

VIDEO: Inside an eerily empty mall in Canada

Only seven of 517 retail spaces are open for business as the grand opening postponed to next year

B.C. wildfires burned large areas affected by mountain pine beetles: Experts

The mountain pine beetle epidemic affected more than 180,000 square kilometres in B.C.

Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

Hydro Ottawa says more than 170,000 customers were without power early this morning

Most Read