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New technology

Craig Oliver Craig Oliver | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 4 January 2007

The last week has seen two very different examples of how technology is helping to change not just the delivery of news but its content too.

BBC Ten O'Clock News logoHow different would history's view of Saddam's execution have been if we had only seen the official version? The first pictures shocked many - but there was a sense of dignity to the proceedings. The emergence of the mobile phone pictures showed an entirely different story - the proceedings had no dignity at all - a guard was abusing the former dictator, so much so that the whole thing was nearly called off.

Obviously, not that long ago phones were not capable of capturing moving pictures and sound - cheap and available to almost everyone now, this reveals how they help change our view of an historic event.

On a very different point, new media technology is helping us to break stories. When Sir Michael Jackson said that army accommodation was "shaming", the Ten O'Clock News wanted to find out if that was true. A combination of appeals for pictures on our website and army message boards provided us with the evidence to put to the man in charge of accommodation, who admitted it wasn't good enough.

After the story went out we pointed out that people could join the debate on the BBC's Have Your Say website. That provoked hundreds of responses and new information which is in turn driving the story on today.


  • 1.
  • At 12:46 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

This just shows how much of what we see is highly distorted with many similar conclusions reached by all the news organizations around the world from just whichever few snipets of an event they get hold of. A picture does not always tell a thousand words. The other big topic of debate on here that stands out from all the rest with a few hundred comments was the Tom Stephens interview. I have noticed it has almost dropped off the list now. I do hope you are considering a response to the many comments all of which agreed something that needs to be done at the BBC. Technology only works if people pay attention to it.

  • 2.
  • At 03:32 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Ausin Fletcher wrote:

New technology is a real threat to the corporate media. The traditional 'gatekeeper' role of organisations like the BCC is also under threat.
The internet has allowed people to share ideas, critique the media and get some real, unfiltered insights into the world. It's been responsible for a real uspsurge in social activism.

It's been a liberating experience for so many. My fear now is that we may soon see virtual marines deployed on the beaches of cyberspace. Will desperate governments try to mitigate the democratising impact of the new technology?

  • 3.
  • At 03:33 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Rossana Espinoza wrote:

Well said, I totally agree with the comments raised. Technology is truly changing the way we see and perceive what is happening. Just how much we would be missing without knowing the true. A picture always tell a thousand words, but the words that the messenger want us to believe. I like the fact that technology is accommodating somehow to us and serving us to know the real facts.

New technology is certainly validating key and background information often vital to understanding the actual sequence of events. Had this execution not been recorded by the mobile phone, Saddam's execution might have passed without so much anger and furore! But now that the cat is out of the bag, Iraq's very future lies on a very thin thread. The Maliki government is poised for an extreme rough ride and the PM himself is looking for an exit strategy so as not to be lynched by Sunnis who are totally scandalized by the turn of events at Saddam's execution. The future looks utterly bleak for Iraq. When will the tragic sequence of events change for the better, once and for all? Iraqis do not deserve this horrible fate! Technology has evolved by leaps and bounds but man's inhumanity and hatred to man has grown exponentially.

  • 5.
  • At 06:07 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Jim-UK wrote:

The increased use of video from mobile phones and the popularity of sites like Youtube can only be a good thing. Saddams hanging is a great example of this, the official video was so misleading it was almost fiction.

the two different verions of Saddam's execution invoked two very different feelings within me.

Should I thank technology for this exposure, or should I be upset I was able to be exposed to it...

  • 7.
  • At 10:14 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Mike Groves wrote:

I will put my cards on the table right now- I think the execution was wrong.

If it hadn't been for the person filiming it we would never have known that it was not the "dignified" execution it was made out to be- but a bitter reaction to more disgusting crimes

The technology gives us a new view point from thousands of cameras and bloggers all with different viewpoints.

I don't think the news is changing so much as the role of the journalist is changing- from conduit of the sources to the filter of the masses

You cannot know exactly what is happening somewhere else just by using technology.

It won't be enough, or at least how technology works nowadays is not enough to get the exact picture. Though technology has helped us evolve ... technology it been used everywhere from houses, cars, in space, on the sea :)

So I never and I cannot complain!

  • 9.
  • At 05:38 PM on 05 Jan 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

I agree it helps to get information from the front-line, such as the Army accommodation, or the Heathrow luggage.

But are we in danger of screwing up the editorial policy by only focussing on the story with the 'sexiest' images ?

Bombs going off in Iraq, or even the Saddam footage, gets covered. But there aren't many 'camera phones' showing the poor dying of AIDS in Africa, and no pictures can explain the underlying causes for disease and poverty.

By all means use footage and snaps from 'citizens' - just don't make the mistake of thinking that makes them into 'journalists' - that's your job.

Well, well... It looks like we are blogging on the same wavelength here.

Over at, I have been commenting on this very issue over a number of posts from the last days of '06.

We are all journalists now. We are all embedded into the events which we find ourselves in everyday life and its inevitable that on occasion, these will be newsworthy.

Where the BBC and other media agencies must be careful is in how these publically produced items are used and followed up.

My worry is that some people may spin events a certain way and an untrained journalist may not record things as accurately as necessary. Lets hope this is never wilfully exploited either, or those grainy mobile phone pics which have the 'ring of truth', may not be quite what they seem.

Well done, a good piece of work.

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