A new era for news?

Mainstream Media to Webheads: Thanks for the Free Content! | Peter Kafka | MediaMemo | AllThingsD.

Responding to an initial claim that it was Twitter and online media that first showed photos of the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson last week, a news network employee said:

“It’s not the speed of Twitter photo that’s remarkable. It’s that it’s FREE. In the past, we would have got that pic from one of the agencies. We didn’t need anything from the agencies yesterday. Anything we couldn’t get from our own crews, people sent us FOR FREE.”

On first reading that comment all seems fabulous, and very “finally, mainstream media gets it”. Yet pause for one moment, and think back to nearly four years ago, to July 7, 2005. On that day the BBC were flooded with pictures, texts and video content from the public of the bombings in central London. The content sent through that day showed viewers footage that no camera crew would ever have been able to film. As a result the corporation brought in new systems and guidelines to deal with such levels of user generated content and also problems that surround it.

But what is puzzling is that surely this can’t be the first time US news channels are experiencing this same phenomenon, can it?