During CNN's coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse one anchor noted the amount of video that was pouring in from "citizen-journalists" throughout the city. Sure enough, regular folks, using equipment they'd probably purchased at some big box electronics store, had captured some truly extraordinary motion and still-photograph images.
As a former broadcast journalist, I can attest to the color and crispness offered by high-end professional equipment, and I certainly miss using my terrific betacam, which cost more than my yearly salary back in the late '80s. But these days even the most pedestrian equipment can capture stunning and stirring images. And these pictures can be distributed worldwide with or without the need of the Fourth Estate.
Right now, I find myself thinking about how in the early years of electronic mail the U.S. Postal Service once offered to "authenticate" messages with some sort of virtual stamp, in an effort to glom its increasingly irrelevant institution onto an entirely new medium. Twenty-something computer users stroked their soul patches, downed their espressos, and laughed.
I have no doubt that traditional news media offer something important to the world, what Dan Rather used to call "context and perspective." Despite the paternalistic ring to that term, I understand its utility. And during a crisis, I still turn on the television to a major news network. But I also fire up the browser to sift through story aggregators like Fark and Drudge (I note with some shame).
Today these media occupy different devices. But as broadband gets faster and faster, allowing traditional media to stream their content through online portals, I wonder if I'll even bother with the television in the next few years.