Rubbernecking The News

Posted on January 16, 2013


Like most of you I woke this morning to the news of the helicopter crash in London. Like many I turned to the TV and radio, and then realising that old media had been trumped by new media yet again, I turned to Twitter, to get the facts. What had happened? Where? Why? I got the facts and a few eyewitness accounts – although it’s always hard to verify eyewitness accounts and photos.

But I also got the bits I hate. The news rubber-neckers. And the news glory-hunters.

It’s true that early on, we didn’t know if anyone had died. But it was pretty obvious there would be casualties, if not fatalities.

But that didn’t stop people re-posting dramatic photos of the flames, preceded with ‘’Wow” or ‘’Here’s a better shot.’’ And those who should know better were at it too. One TV executive tweeted “Great shot”. Well congratulations and doubles all round. I’m so glad we all got a superlative view of the place where two people died in horrific circumstances. My point isn’t so much the photos – you can’t stop the iPhone army or ‘citizen journalism’. My gripe is the relish with which the photos were posted. Woohoo. My shot’s better than yours. High five.

TV news

Then there are the news glory-hunters. My own kind. Journalists who inform us that they’re “on the way to the scene”. Here’s a newsflash. It’s not about you. I know that Twitter can be harnessed to great effect when it comes to breaking news. I’ve done it myself. Tweeting photos of people as you interview them on the radio from a location can make the story come alive and engage people more. But I do think different rules should apply when there’s been an accident or people may be dead. Curb your enthusiasm. This is not your big moment. It’s not about your piece to camera on the evening news. It’s not about how many followers you get on Twitter as a result of covering a tragedy. When did we forget that?

There’s a fine line between photo-journalism and rubber-necking. There’s a fine line between being a journalist and eating yourself. If we don’t see the difference, we’re no better than vultures.

Posted in: News