Cell phones provide compelling images of London blasts

July 10, 2005




Many of the initial images from the terrorist bombings in London last week were captured with cell phones by people on the scene, long before a reporter with a professional broadcast camera even arrived.

In yet another example of how a technology originally designed for consumer entertainment is becoming an important new visual tool for broadcast news, the most intimate images of last week’s bomb blasts in London came from cell phones equipped with cameras and video recorders.

The wide availability of the cameras, combined with the ability to transmit images and text instantaneously, allowed global TV audiences to view news in London with the immediacy of a victim or spectator. Most of the amateur images aired were made long before professional photojournalists arrived at the scene. And although poorly lit, the pictures, were caught by the phones of passengers trapped and later freed from a subway car at London’s King’s Cross that offered a more compelling story than any reporter could have.

Dozens of personal blog sites and news organizations’ Web sites, including the BBC, The Sun, and the World Picture Network, solicited pictures and videos from bystanders caught in the crossfire. Some even ran crawls across the bottom of the TV screen asking for images. In the United States, ABC News, NBC News, Fox News and CNN broadcast many of the images made with mobile phones.

The BBC broadcast a camera phone video including an 18-second clip of a passenger evacuating the subway. The image was dark and jerky but communicated a sense of crisis.

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