[US Airways Flight 1549. Emergency Landing on the Hudson. TwitPic by Janis Krums]
Recognize this photo? Chances are you have already seen this amazing shot of a US Airway commercial flight that was supposed to deliver 150 passengers and crew members to Charlotte, NC from La Guardia Airport, near New York City. Instead, it collided with a flock of Canadian Geese somewhere above Battery Park. Six minutes into the flight and eight miles after taking off it skidded to a landing on the Hudson River. While there were some injuries, it was the first time a commercial flight ever made a water landing without the loss of human life.
Janis Krums, a Latvian-born entrepreneur, living in Sarasota, Fla. was on a ferry, about two football fields away from where Flight 1549 skidded to a halt. He whipped out his iPhone and took the above photo. His story is, I think, the strongest in my chapter on Braided Journalism. It was the point when traditional media understood that there was greater value in using Twitter as a news source, rather than a distribution channel or a place to divert eyeballs to their own websites.
A major point of the chapter is that the best citizen journalism is accidental. Twitterville people are all over the world when news breaks. We have the tools in our pockets and backpacks to record and report what we see. Traditional media's financial problems have reduced their ability to have feet on the street when news breaks. In Twitter there is a convergence between citizen and traditional journalism.
1. Why were you in Manhattan? How did you end up on the Hudson River Ferry at that particular moment?
I was in Manhattan on business concerning my new start-up company Elementz Nutrition [site under construction]. We are developing all natural performance based supplements for elite athletes. I ended up on the ferry because my car was parked on the NJ side and was crossing the Hudson to go get it.
2. How, when and why did you start using Twitter. What was the most interesting thing that had happened to you there before the US Airway incident?
I signed up about nine months ago, but started to really use it about four months ago. This was because I was exploring what social media sites I could use for business reasons. Twitter was something that seamed to have a lot of potential and I started to post links, mainly entrepreneurial, technology, health, and personal interest based links.
Prior to US Air incident, the most interesting thing was actually interacting with users around the world. My network was slowly growing and I was trying to find users with similar interests. As I was getting more involved, I saw more value in twitter. Because of the incident, twitter has become indispensable to me and how I use social media.
3. When and why did you start using TwitPic? What had you used it for prior to the US Airway 1549 incident?
I used TwitPic because it was associated in the applications that I used on my phone, Tweetie and Twittelator. The posts before and after the US Air photo were mainly random things that I think are interesting.
4. Where was the ferry headed? How soon did it arrive at the scene after the plane's water landing?
The route was Midtown (NYC) to Port Imperial (NJ). We were there within minutes, the passengers said that once they got out of the plane they saw the ferry approaching. It all happened very quickly and within ten minutes various rescue vessels surrounded the plane.
5. What role--if any--did you play in the rescue operation?
I was behind the ferry crew and helped orient the survivors of the crash. Another person and I carried the stewardess who broke her legs to one of the benches. Mainly we tried to get everyone warm and give our jackets and whatever we had that was warm to the survivors.
6. You were talking on the phone talking on MSNBC about 20 minutes after the plane skidded onto the river. How was that contact made?
They called me once I got my phone back from the passenger who had borrowed it. I don’t really know how they got my number, but once they had it, my phone kept ringing until late that night and started again next morning.
7. How many traditional media folk have contacted you roughly? Can you name some of them?
I’ve had contact with most of the traditional media, from all the major television networks, many newspapers both in the USA and internationally, especially Germany and England. I was on Good Morning American, Rachel Maddow, Rick Sanchez, 20/20 and two segments on BBC. All in all, the experience lasted about 48 hours. Since then, I’ve had couple of requests or so each week.
8. Your photo appeared in a great number of places, sometimes with no credit, sometimes with your credit and at least once with attribution to Associated Press. Did many traditional media organizations ask your permission? Did AP? Did anyone offer you compensation?
Initially I spoke with AP but I did not like the terms that they tried to get me to sign and I decided to retain the rights to the photo. I’ve received compensation from some newspapers and television productions that have used the photo post the event. Most newspapers did not ask my permission; I’m sorting that issue out and we’ll see what happens.
9. How has this incident changed your life?
Well, I’ve become the Twitter guy or the TwitPic guy… .
Besides those distinguished titles, this incident has opened my eyes on the power of social media and especially Twitter. It is incredible that someone in my position is able to inform the world in real time and beat traditional media to an incident.
Also, I’ve started to evangelize the power of social media for various people who might have ignored it before. There is real interest in the potential and people are intrigued by it.
10. What thoughts do you have related to citizen journalism intersecting with traditional journalism?
Citizen journalism has the potential to be a great supplement to traditional journalism. Citizen journalists report an incident and they might be the first on the scene, but they are not investigating tips and doing background research. There will need to be a mix of both, and I think traditional journalists are seeing this shift. It will be some time until both are used to its potential, but I think we are going in the right direction.