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My CNN essay: Roots of today's citizen journalism found in Rodney King video 20 years ago



rodney-king-20-years-later.jpgWhen the opportunity surfaced to write an essay for CNN's package of stories about the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King beating, I wasn't sure what I could offer.

Then they suggested a piece about finding the roots of today's citizen journalism in the grainy video which sparked so much hate and protest, and I was hooked.

As I wrote for the piece, which was published Saturday, I think the King video birthed an attitude; the idea that technology existed for the average guy to produce a video which could hold the powerful accountable and accomplish the kinds of revelations previously reserved mostly for pro journalists.

Besides inspiring some activists to shadow police with their own camcorders, it presaged the modern moment where everyone is a media outlet and anyone can catch the world's attention with the right cellphone video or Twitter tweet.

rodney-king.jpgThe day after the video shocked the world, I was playing drums in a bar on Pittsburgh's South Side. And as a heartfelt reaction to the madness that seemed to be breaking out, we offered the patrons a dose of Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On. And the clientele, mostly working class white guys, booed -- convinced that sympathy for King equaled disrespect for the police force.

That moment made me wonder how anyone would have reacted to King's story if a plumber from Argentina hadn't grabbed his new video camera and pointed it at the cops who were making so much noise outside his door.

These days, no one believes an event unless it has been captured on video; when most everyone has a digital camera in their pocket, it's tougher to find a major event which isn't captured in the glow of 100 smartphones.

If you have any ideas about how media has changed and how George Holliday's video of Rodney King has changed us all, fell free to share them here. Click here to read the CNN story. 

[Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2011 3:48pm]


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