Welcome to Line Up – the only online resource dedicated to audio for broadcast.
Not many events occur these days in broadcast news coverage without some contribution from the mobile devices of the general public. The backdrop of major sporting events – from the people who have actually paid to be there in real-time and in real life –- is so often a sea of hands in the air gripping their personal registers of events for posterity. It’s almost as if just being there and enjoying the moment is not good enough anymore and that people don’t want to trust their memories and imaginations anymore and prefer to back it up with a shaky snap of the back of somebody else’s hands and head.
Of course, broadcasters’ cameras and sound kit can't be everywhere although they can get there pretty quickly when they have to but the upshot is that footage of disasters and civil unrest is now frequently contributed by the public. We have to question how much this sort of voxpopcamera action actually adds to our understanding of what has happened in the context of news. What we are getting is extra images from the occurrence -- no extra context or comment -- just pictures with pretty poor sound. These are then pasted into a report with a usual disclaimer suggesting that the images are not verified. So why bother then?
My enduring memory from the terrible Boston Marathon bombing are all those panic foot and pavement shots taken by people screaming and fleeing from the carnage. This added absolutely nothing to the news value of the coverage but succeeded only in communicating the horror and desperation of those involved. Is this really where all this is going? Nero supposedly played his harp while Rome burned; will we now fiddle with our cameras as people struggle rather than helping them?
I suppose I am perturbed by the feeling that the time is being filled up by snips and inserts and that the shaky images with insignificant sound are judged to be good enough, just as those terrible ‘over the internet’ live reports with their fitful images and interrupted audio have also been deemed good enough. Proper broadcasters have to very careful in how they handle and integrate content contributed by the public if they are to continue to differentiate themselves from online competitors.