My social media feed has taken a bloody turn in the last few weeks, and I’m hardly alone. Along with the usual Twitter wisecracking and comments on incremental news, I have seen bodies scattered across fields and hospitals in Ukraine and Gaza. I have read posts from reporters who felt threatened, horrified and revolted.
Geopolitics and the ubiquity of social media have made the world a smaller, seemingly gorier place. If Vietnam brought war into the living room, the last few weeks have put it at our fingertips. On our phones, news alerts full of body counts bubble into our inbox, Facebook feeds are populated by appeals for help or action on behalf of victims, while Twitter boils with up-to-the-second reporting, some by professionals and some by citizens, from scenes of disaster and chaos… Bearing witness is the oldest and perhaps most valuable tool in the journalist’s arsenal, but it becomes something different delivered in the crucible of real time, without pause for reflection. It is unedited, distributed rapidly and globally, and immediately responded to by the people formerly known as the audience.
It has made for a more visceral, more emotional approach to reporting. War correspondents arriving in a hot zone now provide an on-the-spot moral and physical inventory that seems different from times past. That emotional content, so noticeable when Anderson Cooper was reporting from the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, has now become routine, part of the real-time picture all over the web.
The absence of the conventional layers of journalism — correspondents filing reports that are then edited for taste and accuracy — has put several journalists under scrutiny, mostly for responding in the moment to what they saw in front of them.
On the Front Lines, Bearing Witness in Real Time (via NYT)