A Newsweekarticle explains how citizen journalism websites and blogs provided the best first pictures and first draft of the events that took place in London during and after the series of bombings on July 7th. The article talks about a camera phone photograph (pictured on right) by Adam Stacey that first appeared on blogs and eventually appeared in the mainstream media.
Take, as a case study, the most instantly iconic photo to emerge from the bombings: a hazy picture of a man in a crowded, eerily lit subway tunnel, holding a handkerchief to his mouth. That picture was taken on a camera phone by Adam Stacey, by no means a professional photographer, who happened to be on the subway train that was hit in a tunnel outside the Kings Cross tube station. Stacey instantly beamed the image to his friend Alfie Dennen, who runs moblog.co.uk. Dennen published the snapshot with a Creative Commons license permitting anybody to reprint it provided Stacey received credit for the photo. From there the image was picked up by picturephoning.com and then Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that is edited by its readers, followed by Sky News, the Associated Press and finally the BBC and the Guardian newspaper. It has since been everywhere.
Our previous entry about blogs and the terrorism in London has more links to blogs and website covering the attacks. The Newsweek article's closing remarks comment on how the newspapers no longer write the first, second or even third draft of a news story.
What happened Thursday is not done happening yet, nor will it be for a very long time. But one lesson that may already be gleaned is this: it is no longer newspapers, as the old maxim goes, that write the first draft of history. Cable news may offer instant images, but it has always been the role of the written word, meaning newspapers, to capture fleeting events and distill them into historical record. But by the time the first editions of print newspapers hit newsstands Friday morning, citizen journalists had already written that first draft, and in some respects the second and third draft, online. Factoring in Wikipedia's coverage of Thursday's terror, you might even say today’s papers are finally getting around to offering history’s 2,801st draft.
Photo: Camera Phone Photograph by Adam Stacey of London Bombings