SubScribe: Glasgow helicopter crash and the night of the citizen journalist Google+

Saturday 30 November 2013

Glasgow helicopter crash and the night of the citizen journalist

What a charming tweet. Wesley Shearer, a 21-year-old man hoping to make his way in the music business, was enjoying an ordinary Friday night out with his mother watching Esperanza performing a live gig.

A couple of hours later, he was the most sought-after man in Scotland.

This is how the world first heard about the helicopter crash in Glasgow. But it was the tweet below that set him apart.

Dramatic words and a sharp photograph - with the helicopter blade clearly visible sticking out of the roof in the centre of the picture. An editor's dream.

 Micah Grimes in America was the first to pick up on it:
Shearer told him to go ahead and continued tweeting with a healthy dose of modesty as friends bombarded him with questions, mostly asking if he was all right.

He was soon trending in Glasgow, then Scotland, then Manchester, Ireland and even Canada.

A young man who had first helped with the rescue and then told the world what had happened. Just the sort of level-headed hero we all love, so it's hardly surprising that his Twitter following grew as more and more people pointed to him as the best source for the story.

In fact, he related what he saw in very few tweets:

The Labour MP Jim Murphy, who was spotted in Shearer's picture, had also helped with the rescue and tweeted about the crash.  Both gave television interviews and, once he got home, Shearer was full of praise for the MP.

But while Murphy already had a public profile and might have been seen as the obvious choice as the key news source, it was Shearer who found himself at the heart of a virtual media scrum.

Imagine those television images of reporters and photographers chasing celebrities down the street crying out for a quote or a picture. This was the Twitter equivalent. Grimes had been first off the blocks at 10.34, but the pack was only moments behind:

The Twitter crew proved a moralistic crowd and those who tweeted the original picture without reference to Shearer - even if in error - were in trouble.

And there were many who advised Shearer to make sure he was paid for his photograph. Matthew Keys alerted him twice

This agency had clearly been burnt in the past

Meanwhile this early exchange irritated our great Olympian Sir Chris Hoy:

The whole idea seems to have bemused Shearer

Even so, let's hope he does get proper recompense. And also let's recognise the organisations that bothered to ask permission to use the picture - while noting that others went ahead anyway, with or without crediting the hero of the hour.

David Jack, late night editor at The Times acknowledged Shearer in this tweet - but the paper was not among those to tweet him to seek permission to run the picture on its website.

SubScribe is meanwhile indebted to Jack for pointing out that one of the firemen on duty at the Clutha last night was on the football field this afternoon, captaining Stranraer in a cup match against Clyde. Frank McKeown tweeted briefly last night

He was right: he worked through the night until 8am and three hours after the shift ended he was in more sombre mood as he took to Twitter again:

McKeown  played the full 90 minutes and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Shearer was also reflecting on the events today and this evening he returned to Twitter after a few hours' break:

A common feature of the tweets from McKeown and Shearer was their obvious concern for others. Both at the crash scene and back at home, Shearer tweeted to reassure friends that he and those with him were safe and to thank people for their concern.

He clearly got little sleep. And this morning, the news hounds were still barking at his feet:

So is this citizen journalism in action? Does it prove we don't need the mainstream media?

Yes and no. Yes, it's great to have instant live coverage of a dramatic event from someone who can tell a story clearly and without letting his ego get in the way. It's a fantastic first port of call and the clamour shows how the big boys still need to get hold of those eyewitnesses.

But there are so many more facets of this story that will need to be told over the next few days; the casualty toll, the safety questions, the financial and political implications.

Wesley Shearer went home to bed, a good job well done. He will still be in demand all weekend. But he won't be expected to write the follow-ups, to interview officials. Those tasks will be undertaken by trained journalists working for mainstream organisations.

Many of those tweeting to and about Shearer described the Press and broadcasters as vultures. But those tweeters were eager enough for the news to follow someone they didn't know and had never heard of before last night. Would they describe themselves as vultures too?

Shearer proved a trusty source, and his citizen journalism proved invaluable. But neither proved that citizen journalists are ready to replace the professionals.

From what we have seen of Shearer, I doubt he would want to. And tonight he has said that there will be no interviews.

Well said - and very good luck to him.

Finally, let's take a quick look at the 'old media'. Well done to the Sun for splashing on the story in all editions - no doubt thanks at least in part to the fact that its Scottish editor Gordon Smart saw the helicopter land on the pub. Smart told the BBC that he had been getting into his car 250m away when he heard a 'misfiring engine' above him. He looked up to see the helicopter fall on the Clutha.

The Glasgow Herald and Scotsman pulled out all the stops as you'd expect,  the Mail had it as the Scottish splash and the Times  had a picture on its Scotland front page. The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent had nothing, the price of centralisaton down south.

But what was going on at the Aberdeen Press & Journal? A huge jolly puff, an iffy Black Friday splash and a single line of white on red pointing to the story on page 11. SubScribe was aghast to find there a full story and picture. If you can do it on page 11, you can do it on page 1. All it required was to clear the splash space for the crash and run the whole shopping nonsense on 5. Same number of pages to jig at last minute, but a better paper.

And here are a couple of the nationals' websites from this morning. As you see, the most in-demand photograph of 12 hours ago has passed  its sell-by date.

 Happy Saturday.



No comments:

Post a Comment