Climate campers get a lesson in citizen journalism
Campaigners learn speed is paramount in creating their own reports of news events
From Paul Lewis guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 August 2009 20.40 BST
Mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras and camcorders were laid
out on bails of hay a display of weaponry at the heart of the UK's
increasingly technological protest movement.
Huddled beside the equipment on a a patch of grass today, legs crossed and
notebooks open, were the environmental activists who had arrived for a lesson in
"citizen journalism". This was the first and, some said, most important workshop
in a week-long programme at the Climate Camp demonstration, a sustainable
campsite constructed in Blackheath, south-east London.
The lesson in how to "shoot, edit and distribute" a 60-second report using a
mobile phone in less than 10 minutes is considered as important as learning how
to invade airport runways or throw sludge at politicians.
But the course teachers, Hamish Campbell and Richard Hering, who have been
making political activist films since the mid-1990s, were circumspect about what
amateurs can achieve.
For a bystander with a mobile and a nose for a story, practicalities and speed
"If police are doing something really stupid and you think they're going to
smash your camera, quickly upload the clip remotely on to the internet," said
Campbell. "They can confiscate or break your mobile but the film is out there."
Their curriculum included instructions on making audio-slideshows using other
people's pictures and, for the more ambitious, a simple explanation of how to
turn 15 minutes of raw footage into a three-minute news report. "What will make
the difference between you and old media, or dying media," said Hering, "is that
they have lighting for indoor shots. So do your interviews outside."
The importance of amateur reporting became apparent at the G20 protests in
April, when dozens of cases of alleged police brutality were captured on mobile
phones and cameras by protesters and bystanders in the crowd.
Citizen journalists came to prominence again in Iran in June, when protesters
took to the streets to complain about alleged fraud in the re-election of
For Campbell and Hering, who post footage via their own site, visionOntv,
amateur journalism will become more effective once reportage is refined.
With activists unhappy with sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, which
they complain are censorious "corporates", much citizen-generated content at
protests is posted on Indymedia, an online forum. A founder of the site, who
asked not to be named, said: "The mainstream media has realised the value of
reports from people who are participating in an event. It's the power of
crowd-sourced informationlink to visiononTV