Monday, July 20, 2009

Where were you when. . . ? Watching TV?

Two days ago, I blogged on a column "Where were you when. . . ?" by Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of The London Free Press. I pointed out how the paper, like many others across North America, messed up the Challenger disaster photo big-time. The Free Press was forced to pull the original colour plates and replate for the city edition. For details see my earlier blog.

I must now add that the black and white picture at the bottom of the Challenger disaster front page is not as presented. In the haste to get the best images from the disaster on the wire, AP erred when captioning the photo. Here is the correction from the New York Times:

Editor's Note: A picture on Jan. 29, published after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, showed the parents and sister of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher astronaut. Under the heading ''Family in Shock,'' the editors' caption said the family was watching ''as the space shuttle took off and exploded.'' In response to inquiries, The Times has reviewed its film, frame by frame, against television tape of the sequence, from liftoff to the announcement of the explosion. The review shows that the published photograph was in fact made slightly before the explosion. The suggestion that the family was reacting to the explosion was mistaken. (The London Free Press used the word "reacts" in their cutline.)

Note how the New York Times used television tape to clarify the situation. The dog (television) wags the tail (the newspapers) again. Now, what was Paul saying about, "Newspapers may be increasingly late to breaking news parties, but they have the advantage of getting more (if not all) the facts right."

I wasn't going to mention the following, but since I have had to revisit the column, let's look at some other stuff said in Paul's column.

First, Paul writes: "It (video of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon) was made possible by the electronic media, and, conveniently enough, by the fact the camera was somehow on the moon and rolling before the big step became a news event."

Forty years after the event and The London Free Press does not know there was no camera magically "somehow on the moon." Geesh, shades of moon landing hoax stories or the moon landing conspiracy theories. The historic event was telecast live from the side using a television camera ingeniously attached to the lunar module.

Wired has an excellent story on how the filming was accomplished. Briefly, a young electrical engineer at Westinghouse, Stan Lebar, was given the task of developing a camera that could capture the most memorable moment of the 20th century – the Apollo 11 moon landing. The goal was to send back a live television feed so that everyone could watch it – particularly the Soviets.

Paul tells us, "Those on Twitter were clearly the first to learn about the miracle plane crash on the Hudson River last winter."Yes, but . . .

According to CNET News, "TwitPic, an application that allows users to take pictures from their mobile phones and append them to Twitter posts, went down after at least 7,000 people attempted to view the photo of the airplane taken by Janis Krums." (Krums, by the way, is a man, and not a "she" as reported by The London Free Press days after the Hudson River landing.)

"According to Noah Everett, the founder of TwitPic, . . . the resulting traffic was too much for the site's servers."

According to Silicon Alley Insider, "Thirty-four minutes after Krums posted his photo, MSNBC interviewed him live on TV. . ." Twitter was first out of the gate, but it was the mature technology of television that won the race and made the world aware of Krums amazing photo. As usual, newspapers were not in the race.

Let's do a little creative editing and let Paul Berton win the last round by quoting his closing words, "Newspapers may be increasingly late to breaking news parties . . . " Well said, Paul.

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