This evening there was a flashmob organised at Liverpool Street Station, in fact it was a Mass Moonwalk in memorial to Michael Jackson.
Seeing as I was on my way to Ware, and had my camera on me I thought that I may as well go and see if I could get some decent pictures.
Not only were the Institutional Press all over it, in the shape of Staff and Freelance shutterbugs, but also TV crews from CNN Europe and The BBC. Add to that every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a half decent camera and / or Flip Video and I started to realise two things.
- I was not going to get the opportunity to get any particularly great photos.
- Despite media dilution and the empowerment of the little guy via the Internet and cheaper kit, Big Media is still going to be in charge, or perhaps more accurately "Citizen Journalism" is never going to replace the institutional media; and I'm ok with that.
It's really important to me (not least because this was posted as public(ish) before it was finished and quite understandably misinterpreted) to stress that I am not against "Big Media". I am against aggressive media conglomeration, but that's a different blog post. I love "Big Media"; not only do high value news organisations like ITN, CNN and of course my beloved Aunty Beeb make it possible for me to place my finger on the pulse of the world at my convenience, but they (generally) do so with professionalism and integrity that is to be respected and cherished.
No, my whole point was to say that I realised that people like me, who have somewhat optimistic aspirations towards garnering a small and in no way economically rewarding audience for our observations and reportage are always going to be at a disadvantage, that I had never really considered before, whilst in the tussle for a scoop with the people involved in large media organisations.
I had, until yesterday evening, been of the opinion that there was an inexorable link between the base-line empowerment offered by the Internet and the associated "tools of the trade" becoming cheaper and more ubiquitous and the rise of the aforementioned Citizen Journalist. Now I realise that I know some genuine self-made journos, and that there is at least a chance to be the "little guy" now that there never has been before, but the "Big Media" organisations are still going to be dominating the landscape for some time to come. Why? Well when you have the time and the money to be on the ground first with a camera crew and sound people and a few warm bodies for crowd control, and a reporter then two things happen. You get better footage / pictures in the first place and your relative perceived level of organisation and importance goes a long way to winning respect and consideration from the Police and the Public alike so that you do, in a rather circular fashion, maximise your chances of "getting the shot".
So, to go back to my subject line, the problem with citizen journalism is that we still live in a world where the trappings and advantages of "doing" journalism professionally and commercially are obvious and real and as such little old me (or little old anyone for that matter) has to fight ten times as hard to get one tenth of the story / photo / footage.
Am I bitter? No, I really am not. I already have a job, and in order to excel at reporting and commenting on the society that we live in, I think one really has to make that activity one's job.
Do I wish it were different? Well of course I do; I've wanted to be a journalist in my quiet moments of personal fantasy since I first saw the Alexander Salkind Superman in the late seventies, and that fantasy has continued through my adolescence and adult life with media influences from the sublime (All the Presidents Men) to the ridiculous (Press Gang), but I have to come to the stark reality that if I had REALLY wanted to become a journalist I probably would have, and even more salient than that, playing at it as a blogger and photographer is fine, but I have no real right to expect to be as good at it or get the kind of recognition that is earned by professionals, for what I do.
An awfully long post to say; "I had an experience this evening that taught me humility", but there we are.
(Edited on my laptop on the following morning to 'finish' the post, as it had been mistakenly posted to my 'Friends' unfinished)