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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Fire near Wood Lake a “smoke chase”

A water bomber reportedly took off from Penticton and is on the way to Lake Country

Expect delays and one-lane traffic along Highway 33

Repaving is underway along Highway 33 and Big White Road

UPDATE: Lake Country man reunited with missing parrot

The Senegal parrot escaped from her cage Wednesday evening and was found Friday afternoon

Roots and Blues online festival live tonight on Black Press Media

Tune in to Black Press Media to watch the festival live Aug. 14, 15 and 16

Okanagan COVID-19 case count growth slows

BCCDC data shows a stark contrast between Okanagan-specific numbers released in July and August

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Vernon pedestrian struck dies from injuries

Emergency responders are on scene on Main Street near the CIBC, traffic affected

Kelowna man convicted of not paying taxes after turbulent trial

Man claims he doesn’t meet the definition of a ‘person’ under the federal Income Tax Act

Accused in Kelowna’s 2018 Canada Day killing granted bail more than 1.5 years later

Esa Carriere was stabbed to death during the Canada Day fireworks in downtown Kelowna in 2018

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Most Read