Rodney King, dead at 47, sparked citizen journalism that’s now commonplace

Los Angeles Times | Mediactive | Politico

Rodney King died Sunday at 47. The 1992 acquittal of the police officers who beat him sparked riots that lasted three days, but the changes in newsgathering that occurred after that beating continue to unspool two decades later. George Holliday videotaped King's beating on March 3, 1991, using his Sony Handycam. He sold the tape to Los Angeles TV station KTLA for $500 and later sued networks, including CNN, that picked it up.

Last March Dan Gillmor wrote a terrific history of citizen journalism before and after King, and Poynter's Steve Myers looked at how citizen newsgathering has evolved since. From the Zapruder film to Timothy Goldman's video of Reginald Denny's beating during the "King riots" to Janis Krums' photo of the "miracle on the Hudson," the question of who owns newsworthy work gets more interesting as the means of capturing and sharing events have become ubiquitous.

And yes, of course that brings us to James O'Keefe, whose outsider journalism led to two resignations at the mainstream news organization NPR, among other exploits. At a panel this weekend in Las Vegas, Tim Mak reports in Politico, O'Keefe discussed how to get started:

But anybody can do citizen journalism, said O’Keefe, who was introduced at the conference as someone who never went to journalism school.

“It just takes a little bit of courage, a little bit of creativity,” he said.

Others at the conference talked about recording school-board meetings, looking to capture corruption on local levels.

“We need to be looking at the sewer commissions, we need to be looking at school boards. That’s where corruption starts. We don’t know enough about our county commissioners,” said Trent Seibert of, who gave a speech at the conference. “I love corrupt politicians. I can’t get enough of them. For me, it’s like a job for life.” ...

“Citizen journalism is getting stronger. I think it will grow particularly as traditional newspapers continue to shrink,” added Seibert.

Related: University acknowledges that student Andy Duann retains copyright to falling bear photo | 5 reasons broadcasters pay licensing fees for stories and why it corrupts journalism | “This has been a crazy experience,” writes man who posted photo of US Airways crash

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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