Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UF: tasering imbeciles or new media giant

In the wake of yesterday's on-campus tasering of UF student Andrew Meyer, I've been thinking a lot about what this event means for UF, the Gainesville community and, of course, communications in general.

When I first heard about what had happened I sort of shrugged it off as another case of ranting-gone-wrong. I've been to several ACCENT-sponsored events in the past and have seen my fair share people mouthing off to guest speakers. What really caught me off guard in this particular case was how everything transpired and the citizen journalism that took place. By the end of the day yesterday (Sept. 17), there were already countless video accounts of the tasering posted on Web sites like Youtube, FoxNews and various newspaper sites from all over Florida. Surprisingly they each told a different side to the story.

What makes these videos so fascinating to me is how they each produce a different message (which may be the reason we've seen such varying reactions from people). Who knows, maybe one's reaction can be determined by which video they saw? Anyway, this is a prime example of what so many of my professors have been talking about over the course of the last year. New media is not limited to trained reporters and media professionals anymore. In fact, most of the videos posted online were probably taken with cell phone cameras. With this time of citizen reporting, should the established news media be wary? Or does this mean that the nations "fourth estate" now has a watchdog of its own in the very audience it is set to serve? Both are interesting questions.

The event also shows how times have changed. Even when I started college a few years ago, camera phones were none existent. Portable, and easy to afford video recorders were also in short supply. But now that the technology is relatively inexpensive, these types of devices are everywhere. Talk about diffusion of innovations! Now that's media theory in practice if you ask me.

Still, this role of "citizen journalist" is still undefined. Are regular people able to adequately report events, or are they merely pawns for the current media machine to use? Are they owed money for their services? Again, only time well tell. Until everything gets sorted out I hope that Andrew Meyer is healthy and avoids and more conflict with UPD. I also hope that UF's PR department is ready for its biggest challenge since it created The Gator Nation campaign (which, come to think of it, really wasn't that difficult in the first place). Anyway, best of luck!

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