The average cellphone user now has the ability to report like a journalist.
Camera phones have been available to the public since the mid-1990s. According to ABC News, there were 40 million cellphones in the world in 2006. This number rose to six billion by 2012, with a majority of these phones equipped with cameras. So it comes as no surprise that cellphone photography has become a big part of what is known as “citizen journalism.”
Many people might not think of cellphone photos as top-notch, news quality. While it is true that these cellphone cameras may not take photos like a professional camera would, they do have some benefits, such as:
- Being simpler to use.
- Providing the ability to instantly share photos on the Internet.
- Being cheaper to purchase than a professional camera.
- Providing faster ways to take photos of breaking news events.
Because most people carry cell phones on them at all times and would already be at the scene of breaking news, they can provide documentation before a professional photojournalist can arrive.
On Jan. 15, 2009, Janis Krums, of Sarasota, Fla., was riding on a nearby passenger ferry moments after U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River in New York. He quickly snapped a photo of passengers standing on the wings of the submerged aircraft with his iPhone and uploaded it to Twitpic, a photo sharing website for Twitter users.
The photo had 40,000 views within four hours. Major news networks were using Krums’ photo as a legitimate news source.
Many broadcast news organizations have now implemented cellphone photography as a part of their broadcasts. News anchors will often ask viewers to send in photos to show on-air.
Even some academic institutions are recognizing cellphone photography as a legitimate resource for journalism. Kent State University now has a journalism cellphone photography class available to students.
It seems that amateur cellphone photography has planted its roots in journalism, and that it will only grow.
In this video, Ariana Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, shares her thoughts on citizen journalism, including examples of cellphone photography and video use.