On the weekend I was at the scene of a car fire at the intersection of a busy main road. Yes, it’s totally true. I was buying Christmas presents in a toy shop when a man suddenly burst in screaming that a car nearby was on fire billowing smoke and that we needed to evacuate immediately. I’ve always imagined that in a moment of crisis I would react coolly and calmly. Despite sounding like a badly scripted disaster movie his repeated cries of “she’s going to blow” triggered my primordial panic-mode. The toys I was planning to buy were suddenly catapulted into the air. I grabbed my small son’s hand and bolted for the door. In retrospect I wish I’d calmly placed the items on the counter, but the theatrics seemed to fit the moment.
Anyway, when we were outside and very aware that “she’s going to blow”, the driver of the car, other customers, my son and I scarpered up the street away from the car which was now engulfed in flames. Making our way up the street I noticed a car pull up and a man step out whom immediately started filming the drama on his smart phone.
Not so many years ago this little scene would have been the sole province of on-the-road TV news crews or someone lucky enough to be carrying a camcorder. However the advent of smart phones means more and more eye-witnesses and passers-by are contributing to news and current affairs coverage. No doubt this man intended to pass on his burning car footage to a television news outlet. You only need to look at all the Australian TV networks’ websites to see they all have email addresses and ways you can forward your videos to them.
There’s nothing to stop anyone joining the ranks of citizen news hounds. Simply film anything you think might be news-worthy. For example: You open the lid of your toilet and find a python coiled around the bottom of your toilet bowl. Film it and email the vision to a news outlet. (Then, I suggest you put the house on the market and move to a snake-free suburb). Another example might be an adverse reaction to a cosmetic, or something unusual contained in your breakfast cereal/burger/bag of frozen peas. All these make for excellent grist to the tireless 24 hour news mill.
Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular. A simple YouTube search delivers countless videos of drivers filmed behaving badly on our roads. The vision would not only make for a great “gotcha” news segment, I daresay it would also be of interest to Transport and Main Roads officials and the police.
Storm-chasers were one of the first groups to recognise the opportunities of providing their work to news outlets. There are many brave, some would say foolhardy, souls across the globe who actively charge headlong into dramatic weather events while other run the other way seeking shelter. Hunkered down in the eye of the storm, they whip out their camera and film the action. News outlets have engaged in heated bidding wars for such footage. It doesn’t matter that no-one was injured or killed or that no property was damaged, the pictures are the story.
Now, I’m concerned you think I made the burning car story up for the sake of a dramatic opening paragraph. Unfortunately though, as I was in a state of panic worrying that “she’s going to blow”. I didn’t think to film it until the flames had been put out by the man from the local petrol station. Here is a short video of the smoke. But, to be fair I don’t think the news outlets will trip over themselves for the vision. Oh, and by the way “she” didn’t blow. The firies turned up and reduced her to a small, miserable, sizzling pile of blackened metal and charred rubber. Her former owner was unscathed and is currently on the hunt for a shiny, new car.
Alex Hind is a Content Writer and Video Producer at BCM.
(In a previous life she was a TV journalist).