More often than not, major news happens and there
is no one around to report it. By way of interviews and records
of the event, reporters are able to ‘re-create’ it for
the morning paper. Unfortunately, there is usually not the opportunity
to capture news in the making with a photograph.
But when the London Underground was bombed
on July 7, 2005, photos of the event were published on websites
and blogs, and made their way to the mainstream media. It was the
people with camera cell phones that captured the images, not reporters.
Photo by bystander Saira Khan taken July 7,
2005 in London at the scene of the underground bombing. MSNBC TV.
Yuki Noguchi of The Washington
Post writes that “some of the most intimate images of [the July
7] bomb blasts in London came from cell phones equipped with cameras
and video recorders, demonstrating how a technology originally marketed
as entertainment has come to play a significant role in up-to-the-minute
The new ‘cell journalists’ who happen to be in the right
place, at the right time, can then sell their photos to news sources
for a price. Spy Media (www.spymedia.com),
started by Tom Quinn, former president of Novell, Scoopt (www.scoopt.com),
Journalist, are three websites that connect the cell journalists
with the news media who are willing to pay money for action shots.
This technology is becoming more popular and the quality is improving
as a result. Currently, cell phones with cameras are out-selling digital
cameras by a four-to-one ratio. There are estimates that camera phones
may be equipped with newspaper-quality cameras as early as next year.
Cell journalism is a form of citizen journalism, or the process of
citizens reporting news, side-stepping traditional news media, and
creating their own form of journalism. For more on citizen journalism,
see our section on blogging.
Ethical problems faced by cell journalists include all the problems
associated with photojournalism in general: the digital manipulation
of images, privacy concerns, and the use of graphic images, (see photojournalism
section). But cell journalists also have a new set of issues to deal
As photos are published on the web from all over the world, it is
difficult to check their authenticity. Cell Journalist and Scoopt
scan all uploaded photos and also make contact with the photographer
to ensure the authenticity of the photo. In contrast, Spy Media does
not pre-screen their photos. “We don’t censor,”
said co-founder, Brian Quinn. “News is like fish. It goes bad
quickly. It needs to be available immediately.”
Traditionally, news organizations were able to ensure the authenticity
of photos through a process of verification with their photographers.
Even with the rise of freelance journalism, there was still some contact
between the news media and the photojournalist. With the new cell
journalists, however, this contact and process of verification is