‘Tweeters’ at scene of disaster – digital rubberneckers, not citizen journalists!

A plane crash at Amsterdam's Schipol airport has highlighted the way that Twitter users, although often first to 'break' news, could be accused of rubbernecking, gossiping and drawing attention to themselves through the tragic plight of others. Should we leave this sort of thing to the professionals?

‘Tweeters’ at scene of disaster – digital rubberneckers, not citizen journalists!

Yes because... No because...

Tweets that appear in the first few moments of an accident are often disrespectful

Tweets such as 'Whose on the scene with an i-phone?' and 'I can't get a good photograph with my Blackberry from this distance' show that people are motivated by getting gory souveneirs of the tragedy to share with others, not by the need to report seriously on the events.

There is a fine line between reporting and respecting privacy as any professional journalist knows. The public have a 'right to know' in many situations, so why is it only professionals that can tell us? If photos were taken by a hardened pap who had just happened to be at the scene then no-one would have complained!

‘Tweeters’ at scene of disaster – digital rubberneckers, not citizen journalists!

Yes because... No because...

Twitter is (mostly) individuals telling thier friends what they are doing

This cannot be labeled citizen journalism any more than sending a group text to one's friends about the event would be. Twitter was designed so interested people - like your friends - could follow what you are up to. This falls apart when news hungry vultures follow an individual who found themselves at the scene of an incident and he or she decides to take advantage of this.

This is true in most cases however there are a large number of news agencies using Twitter too. They are utilising the site to officially announce news so why shouldn't personal users do the same?

‘Tweeters’ at scene of disaster – digital rubberneckers, not citizen journalists!

Yes because... No because...

Citizen journalism does not become news itself!

If citizens write about issues on blogs, this *in itself* is not news. Someone has written a blog. So what?! However, there is the distinct feeling that because Twitter is such an innovative form of 'broadcasting' the first to 'tweet' will get attention because of that. Stephen Fry getting stuck in a lift is not 'stop the press' material. His tweeting while he did it was. People know that tweeting will get them more attention. They are not so much rubbernecking as shouting 'hey, look at me, I'm using the latest in rubber neck technology!' It also gets them hundreds of followers. Will it get to the point where we hope we are *lucky* enough to be at the scene of a tragedy so we can tweet about it?

Once blogging did make the headlines. Supposedly out-of-touch MP's embracing the digital age, for example, made headlines. It is not news any more. Just as this is old news, the hype around twitter will fade and being at the scene of an accident (although you may tweet about it) will not make you the centre of media attention *because* you are tweeting about it.

‘Tweeters’ at scene of disaster – digital rubberneckers, not citizen journalists!

Yes because... No because...

The two are not mutually exclusive

The thought that the Sun are comparable to "non-journalists, using modern technology to create media." is really naive .
All media be it Newspapers , TV news and official internet news sites are bound by rules on what they can and can't print/broadcast. There is a code of practice here
http://www.pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.html
And anyone can make a complaint to the Press complaints commission about anything printed/broadcast.
During times of conflict news items about troop movement etc to be printed have to be cleared by the MOD.
At the scene of a disaster some fool with a camera phone could take a picture of dying person , and moments later their mother, son or Daughter could learn of this in the most vile way.
There is a big difference between what is printed in papers and what somebody could upload to Twitter.
In the same way There is a big difference between taking a picture of one of your mates falling over and taking a picture of the inside of a badly crashed mangled bus.

"The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others." (1)

Just because the public are using Twitter to broadcast events doesn't mean it will be any more or any less 'sophisticated' than official news coverage. If we interpret rubbernecking as naive and vulgar fascination with, or coverage of, unfortunate events then perhaps the Sun is just as guilty. The people on twitter are still, non-journalists, using modern technology to create media. This makes them citizen journalists. The accusation of 'rubbernecking' can be levied at them dependent upon how they handle it, as it can against all news sources that re-distribute information in a vulgar manner.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_journalism

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