Yesterday, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, saved 155 passengers as he crash-landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.  In the midst of panic after his engines ingested a flock of waterfowl, and with no subsequent engine power, Sullenberger made the prescient choice to ditch in the water instead of hoping to glide to Teterboro airport in New Jersey.

Here is the flight path of Sullenberger’s Airbus A320 after taking off from La Guardia airport and crashing in the Hudson River six minutes later:

One of the most fascinating aspects of the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 was the role of Janis Krums — a Floridian who happened to be on a New York on a water ferry dispatched to make an emergency rescue in the river — as he took the first image of the crash with his iPhone and immediately uploaded the text event of the crash to Twitter while simultaneously linking the image to Twitpic:  

Janis Krums’ prescience-of-mind to preserve the event of the crash was remarkable, and his quick thinking became the iconic semiotic of the day for history: 

Using an iPhone, Twitter and Twitpic, you are able to instantly share text and upload image with the world.  The process is seamless.  There is a certain quickness to the process that beats anything the traditional media can provide.

What disturbs me about the coverage of Janis’ recording of the crash is the mainstream media’s need to label him a “Citizen Journalist” — as if he isn’t a “real” journalist like them because he didn’t first attend acting school or a modeling program to earn his “journalism” job reading a teleprompter — it is that sort of narrow thinking that is rightfully killing traditional media as they insist on drawing a bright line between them and us:  The know-it-all establishment and the know-nothing-but-lucky ordinary citizen.

Media like Twitter — I refuse to call Twitter a “Social Network” now because that’s just as insulting a label as “Citizen Journalist” — promise a future participation where all of us become a funnel for breaking news the world over for each other. 

Can we trust the innocent interest of each of us to record and share the events of the day without wondering who is making money on the way the “news” is being skewed and “reported” on the back end in order to maintain the facade of an unbiased media elite?

We need more heroes like Chesley B. Sullenberger III and Janis Krums — because they were both quick-witted enough to save the day and preserve the moment — one required by work ethic, the other called by moral duty — and their example is one for the Ages that should inspire the rest of us as we blindly cling to the higher hope of always being better than our expectation while praying to never fall any farther into the depths that perpetually tempt sloth and disinterest.


  1. That was quite astonishing. I too can’t stand how they are calling Janis Krums a “citizen journalist” as though what he did had basically no legitimacy.

  2. It is absolutely a question of legitimacy, Gordon. iPhones, Twitter, Twitpic, etc. — they’re all direct assaults on the established media. The mainstream media needs the information, though, so they’ll take the submission for re-broadcast, but they’ll give the source a distinctly negative label in order to provide their own after-the-fact importance. It is disgusting.

  3. it has happened more than once – that the news web site West Seattle Blog posts news on something that is happening in West Seattle, and then 15 hours later the Seattle MSM reports it as BREAKING – the breaking boat sailed fifteen hours earlier. When we had a bad blackout, we relied on the West Seattle Blog for all of our information.

  4. Self-publishing is a great threat to the majority media, Gordon. That’s why they try to brush us off as “mere bloggers” instead of rightful members of the Fourth Estate. We can move faster than they can and we can publish faster than they can — so all they can do is question our reliability and editorial process… but with their failure to properly report on the Bush shenanigans over the last eight years, the mainstream media have lost any professional or moral high ground they once tried to claim as their own.

  5. The actions of both men are remarkable and they will both be remembered in different ways.
    One for being the hero pilot – the other perhaps for sounding the death knell for the commercial media.
    By pouring scorn on Janis in such a way they have revealed just how worried and threatened they are by quick thinking, honest, unsponsored and unpaid human beings recording what they are seeing as it happens. (As opposed to highly paid, highly sponsored, vested interests spinning the news.)

  6. It is a wonderful story, Nicola, and you wonder at how both men had the presence of mind to act instinctually: One with formal training, the other without.
    I agree there is a threat to the major media. They’re on the ropes and in trouble. They’re owned by multi-million dollar conglomerates with vast interests that have nothing to do with reporting facts or truth.
    The fact that many of these “news” outlets now have space on their websites for “viewer uploads” of “news” captured locally… the more we are seeing a seismic shift in attitude and responsibility for veracity in the world. Currently, only three major American broadcast networks decide together what makes the news. In a divine world, tens of millions of people will decide every moment what “makes the news” or not.

  7. They are a lot kinder in the UK – they call them viewers videos – or viewers photographs – citizen journalist is an abhorrent term – they also give credit to the person contributing the item.
    Do you think the major media will wake up and smell the coffee?

  8. I don’t think the major media care to wake up because they don’t see a viewer rebellion as any threat to their status quo: They’re in bed with each other, the government and the moneyed people.
    The only way they’ll take notice is when they’ve been replaced. The fact that David Gregory — of the “excuse makers” that NBC appropriately covered the Bush administration even though no challenges were ever made to anything substantial and deathly — is now the Host of “Meet the Press” replacing Tim Russet says everything we need to know. Obedience is richly rewarded and placating the masses with convenient lies gets you a better job.

  9. Love that story, Nicola! — especially the Current cable TV channel — is one of my favorite news sources.
    Al Gore was a co-founder of the network:

    Since its inception in 2005, Emmy award-winning Current TV has been the world’s leading peer-to-peer news and information network. Current is the only 24/7 cable and satellite television network and Internet site produced and programmed in collaboration with its audience. Current connects young adults with what is going on in their world, from their perspective, in their own voices.
    With the launch of, the first fully integrated web and TV platform users can participate in shaping an ongoing stream of news and information that is compelling, authentic and relevant to them.
    Current pioneered the television industry’s leading model of interactive viewer created content (VC2). Comprising roughly one-third of Current’s on-air broadcast, this content is submitted via short-form, non-fiction video “pods”. Viewer Created Ad Messages (VCAMs) are also open to viewer’s participation.

    They get a lot right. They are daring. They tell truths from small pockets of the world. I don’t like that they use the term “Citizen Journalist” on their About page, though.

  10. Hats off to both of them…I watched the entire episode live, online – in fact my whole office was a witness of it.
    If a “citizen journalist” can help saving others lives – I think we are better off the “traditional decorative ones”, at least the agenda of the former ones are much more honest.

  11. That’s a neat story, Katha. Were you able to clearly watch the video stream of the event online? Was the quality good enough to see the details? What news channel were you watching?
    Speaking of decorative anchors — I had an attractive actor friend — and after he couldn’t make a career acting in NYC, he became a morning newsreader for a major, national, broadcast network. Every time I saw his “reading” the news to us, I kept saying out loud, “He’s an actor. An AC-TOR!” It was fun to see a friend have such a high profile job, but he certainly wasn’t a trained “journalist” in any way. Perhaps we need a new label: “The Actor Journalist.”

  12. Hi David,
    Someone in our office was reading something in “Rediff” when he noticed a news flash and announced it to the whole office, I followed MSNBC after it.
    “Actor journalist” was a good one!

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