I was always moved by the black and white footage of the airship Hindenburg crash landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 with a breathless radio reporter delivering a stirring commentary with the memorable words “oh, the humanity!”. A despairing cry from an old media witness. He’d seen 35 people killed as the airship burst into flames and it was his words that brought the disaster to millions of radio listeners.
Contrast then with the Asiana airplane crash at San Francisco airport last weekend. The first commentators were not old media but passengers hitting Twitter and other social media. USA Today reported Samsung executive David Eun finding himself on the disintegrating plane and sending a surprisingly sober and calm series of tweets on the drama as it unfolded. One tweet read:
I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m OK. Surreal.
The tweet has an almost telegram like quality to it but the key difference being it could be distributed instantly to a worldwide audience. What further proof is required that we are all now citizen journalists and publishers rolled into one. And what we say can carry authority if we’re in the right place at the right time.