During my very first visit to London, I woke up to a morning similar to any other — except I slept in later than usual; after all, I was on vacation. I had my morning cup of coffee and turned on the TV only to discover that July 7, 2005 would not be like any other.
Explosions had taken place in the London tube at various stations. One being Edgware Road, the area where I was staying. To say I was scared would be an understatement.
At first, the media and government announced the explosions as underground ‘circuit shortages’ that had occurred throughout the lines. A map of the entire tube was pictured on the news report indicating each affected station with a red circle. But to me, it seemed much too coincidental that this happened at so many stops throughout the tube; and, sure enough, 20 minutes later, a double decker bus exploded. At that point, all of the explosions were verified to be bombings as part of a large calculated terriorist attack.
I was shocked, stunned, scared, and confused all at the same time. I could hear engines outside and people in the streets. My initial impulse was to stay locked inside and wait it all out. However, my travel buddy thought otherwise. His initial impulse was to run to the streets and find out the facts of the story. After much convincing, and perhaps a feeling of obligation to make sure he was not harmed throughout our trip, I agreed to go outside with him and find out more information about what exactly happened. After all, the media didn’t get the whole story right the first time (‘circut shortages’), we wanted to get to the bottom of it. Plus, we were in the middle of it all.
We stepped outside to find chaos everywhere. The tube stations were closed and filled with police and caution tape lining each corner. We couldn’t get very far. But, the looks on people’s faces, including the police, told it all. Everyone felt the same way as I did: shocked, stunned, scared, and confused. But many of them had something I didn’t (due to traveling abroad), a camera cell phone.
During the summer of 2005, camera cell phones were the rage. A relatively new product (at least to those will a normal-sized bank account), they were just beginning to become a cell phone ‘norm.’
According to the BBC, this day in history, 7/7/05, was when “the phenomenon of “user-generated content” (UGC) or “citizens’ journalism” came into its own in Britain, as members of the public took over the roles of photographers and news correspondents.” And I fully agree.
I was there to witness the massive amounts of people who had their cell phone camera on them and used it, over, and over, and over. Even without a cell phone camera in hand, I began to feel guilty for just wandering the streets. Like a car wreck, people were drawn to the tube stations. The sidewalks and streets were filled with onlookers.
Building on the BBC article on citizen journalism, The Online Journalism Review claims that 7/7/05 marks the day that the UK public became citizen paparazi, not journalists. From my experience there, I would have to agree with this as well. It seemed that the general public went overboard with their camera-happy involvement in the activity both in the streets and underground.
On the other hand, however, how else would the rest of the world hear and understand the tragedy? A major image that sticks with many of us is the bus explosion, a photograph taken by a civilian. This citizen journalist, who choses to remain anonymous, won the Nokia Citizen Journalism Award for this photo. This image allowed people to see firsthand the impact of the terrorist attacks — giving them a personal and emotional connection. Anna Shipley, Communications Manager of Nokia UK said: “…Citizen Journalism is very much being recognised as a credible part of the media agenda. The increasing quality of camera phones has meant that more and more people are able to capture spontaneous and newsworthy moments whilst going about their everyday lives.”
Similar to many other countries, participation in online social networking and media has incrased in Great Britain. The reports on the 7/7/05 bombings proved that the work submitted by citizen journalists is unmatched by any mainstream media news source; a comprehensive and truthful story can be told by working with, not against, each other.
It is clear that citizen journalism took off on 7/7/05 in London, and has little signs of ever stopping.