| A mobile phone camera image of Tavistock Place after the explosion on a double-decker on Thursday. The blast killed 13. (AP)
London, July 8 (Reuters): Mobile phones transformed victims into journalists after the transport attacks in London as amateur photographs and video footage played a key role in newspaper, television and Internet coverage.
A grainy image of commuters trudging along darkened tracks filled the entire back page of Britain’s Times newspaper today while Sky News TV frequently replayed homemade video footage shot in the aftermath of the blasts.
Independent Television (ITV) sent out a mobile phone text message request to hundreds of subscribers to its service seeking any video footage of the events, some of which wound up broadcast, but most of which was of too poor a quality or too graphic to be shown.
“Two years ago, the only place you got home video from was air show disasters and weddings,” said Stuart Thomas, editor of ITV London News. “But now a large proportion of people in this country are carrying a camera with them all the time, which is just incredible. It’s a great source that we’d be foolish not to tap into. The best ones we had yesterday were of people walking inside the tunnels, where you would never normally have a TV camera when an event like that is taking place.”
Amateur photographers played an even more critical role documenting yesterday’s wreckage because tight security blocked news agencies from accessing the blast sites.
Another reason news organisations are using more home footage is that the quality has improved dramatically in recent years. The standard camera on a European mobile phone has detail of 1 million pixels, three times as much as in early 2003. Many phones come with a flash now too.
Britain’s public broadcaster, the BBC, received about 1,000 pictures by email yesterday, including one of the first dramatic images of a double-decker bus with the roof torn off taken by a passer-by.
“We get thousands of emails a day with emotional descriptions of events like 9/11 and the tsunami, but yesterday was a turning point in what we call user-generated content because it was the images that really told the story,” said Vicky Taylor, editor of interactivity for the BBC’s news website. The BBC was also one of the many broadcasters to show shaky and blurry videophone footage.
“The quality is getting so much better,” Taylor said. “Given the situation they were showing ' panic and mayhem ' people accepted that it would wobble a bit and go to black sometimes.”
“Phones can make a mini-journalist out of anyone,” said David Hogben, operations director at All New Video.
Market research group Gartner estimates that well over half the 150 million phones sold in Europe this year will have a built-in camera that can capture still images. Many will also have video recording capability.
“We’ll see a lot more event-based reporting from individuals who happen to be at the right place at the right time,” Gartner mobile phone analyst Ben Wood said, “or in this case the wrong place at the wrong time.”