Citizen Journalism has Gone Too Far

About a week ago, I had the luck to come across a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I visited Rihanna’s website just to check for updates on her new “Rated R” album (which just came out yesterday, I believe.)
As it turned out, I was just half an hour away from viewing a free, live performance broadcast from London, in which Rihanna would perform a medley of new and old songs.
I watched in anticipation while a large group of Rihanna fanatics crammed into the theatre, anxiously awaiting her arrival.
At the bottom of the webpage was two buttons, one for Facebook and one for Twitter, for fans to tweet about their excitement for the concert….

Then I saw the Twitter feed.

Thousands of people were saying the exact same thing under the #rihannalive hashtag.
“I’m so excited!”
“Where is Rihanna?”
….you get the idea.

And then, just before the opening of the show, a stage manager came out and followed the as-usual theatrical precautions procedures. These are the exits, no flash photography, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And then, immediately as the lights went down…
Flash! Flash! Flash! Flash!
….wait. Did that guy not just say something along the lines of NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY?

And then, throughout the entire performance, looking out into the audience, you can see the luminous screens of cell phones and digital cameras.
And the Twitter feed was going nuts.

Now, if I were Ri-Ri, and was singing my heart out on stage, I would want my audience to be looking at me through their own eyes. Because no matter how much they record and document, what is seen and heard is what will stay in their memories. Viewing the world through a digital screen not only distorts your memory of unique events, but also does nothing good for your eyesight.

The September 11th attacks were best documented through the digital capabilities of the citizens of New York. Those that had the equipment and the safe angle were able to document this tragic event as it unfolded. Their perspectives made it personal and real to the world.

Yet a crowded auditorium full of people seeing the exact same thing, and recording it with phones and cameras with less-than-perfect sound and video quality, is absolutely unnecessary. When we search on YouTube for videos of Rihanna’s performance, we won’t get the professionally-recorded segments (though you can watch the ENTIRE thing on her website), we get amateur video, with blurry visuals and sound drowned out by screaming fans posted just because these people think it has some journalistic value. In reality, it just takes up space for more worthwhile and relevant videos.

I have decided to take an oath:
I solemnly promise to only record and broadcast those events that have relevance and newsworthiness.
I further promise to use sound judgment when making decisions as to what does and does not belong on the Internet.
I finally promise to give priority to experiencing the world through my own eyes and ears, as they will never mislead me like a piece of digital technology could.

I encourage you all to take this oath as well.


Constant Reinvention: Is Gen. Y Already Behind?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my generation, Generation Y, sort of has an advantage in the job market, having grown up with the Internet and its constant change and reinvention.

It has made me think of my late great grandfather, Charlie. Though I don’t remember much about him–he passed away when I was 3 or 4–one memory my great grandmother always mentions of him is that he loved technology. Every time a new computer came out, a new telephone, or anything, he had to grab it and play with it. He wanted to know all there is to know about new technology.
Though it was a seemingly ancient time of car phones and electric typewriters, he was never behind with the technological trends.

And now that I think about him, I wonder…is my generation already behind? Or are we almost behind? Sure, we have Facebook and MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. We can keep track of our lives through our phones, and our video game characters look like real people. But how up-to-date are we?

I attended the 60th Anniversary dinner of St. Louis’s PRSA chapter the other night, and our guest speaker, John Byrne, executive editor of BusinessWeek magazine, discussed the evolution in social media.
He talked about how newspapers are dying out by the dozens, shifting our demand for news to the online realm. Perfect example: The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, which ceased publication in 1986, is returning only online on December 8.
He also discussed how with this new world of social media, businesses can now reach the consumers directly, cutting out the need for the middle man. They can now do all their work internally, without having to reach out to third party groups to do the work for them.

So where does that leave my generation?
We do have the advantage. Having grown up during the evolution of social media, we can easily navigate these sites and relay the desired information out. Awesome selling point for those groups jumping on the bandwagon and opening a Twitter account.

Yet with the constant reinvention of our technology (Droid phone, anyone?), we must stay up-to-date. We must never stick to what is comfortable, because before we know it, the rug is going to be yanked right out from underneath us. We must read the other blogs, know how people are communicating today, and ride that new current before it becomes yesterday’s news.

Otherwise, our knowledge of social media will be just as relevant as knowledge of using an electric typewriter.