The day “The News” changed forever

The day “The News” changed forever

On January 15th 2009 an event occurred that changed history forever, though at the time very few people realised it. It was the day US Airways Flight 1549, a scheduled commercial passenger flight left New York City to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina as it had done many times before.

Three minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport the plane struck a flock of Canada Geese while still climbing towards its cruising altitude. The bird strike, which occurred just northeast of the George Washington Bridge, resulted in an immediate and complete loss of thrust from both engines.

When the aircrew of the Airbus 320 determined that they would be unable to reliably reach any airfield from the site of the bird strike, they turned it southbound and glided over the Hudson, finally ditching the airliner near the USS Intrepid museum about three minutes after losing power. All 155 occupants safely evacuated the airliner, which was still virtually intact though partially submerged and slowly sinking. Everyone on board was quickly rescued by nearby boats which had witnessed the whole incident.

The entire crew of Flight 1549 was later awarded the Master’s Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. The award was in recognition of the emergency ditching and evacuation, with no loss of life. The Captain in particular was hailed as a hero, averting a potential disaster and central to this unique achievement in aviation history.

Although the incident was reported widely at the time something else happened on that day which has irrevocably changed the way we define ‘news’ – and the repercussions are now changing history.

On that particular day hundreds of people were out taking a morning stroll beside the Hudson River. There were dog walkers, joggers, people going about their daily business and people travelling to work. As the plane started to get into trouble and change course the people on the ground started to reach for their mobile phones to take photos of the descending plane. Others sent text messages describing the unfolding events, some sent messages via Twitter and other social media sites. By the time the formal news channels heard of the incident the plane was already in the water – but already people the world over knew what had happened. In other words by the time CNN and Sky News got their reporters to the scene the incident was already old news.

Later that day, in the boardroom of one of the leading TV News Channels, a Senior Manager was quoted as saying to his team “Gentlemen, as of today we are no longer in charge of the news. It is in the hands of the people.”

On that day ordinary people were sending news updates, images and sound clips around the world from their mobile phones. In other words ordinary people were using mobile phones to spread developing news stories faster than the corporate news channels could ever hope to. Suddenly, the News Channels woke up to the reality that they no longer had a monopoly on the news.

Social media, by which I mean popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, have already started to irrevocably change the social and business communication landscape. Now it seems something as reassuringly familiar as the News on TV and Radio is being challenged by the media tools available to all of us. Whether you believe this to be a good thing or a bad thing is obviously a matter of personal opinion. What is undeniably clear, however, is that mobile phone technology is not just changing the way we interact with each other. It is now also changing the way the very fabric of our society operates.

About Rory Gear

I’m Rory Gear, also known by my writing pseudonym – Joe St Clair. I’m a full time professional writer and blog writer, I write pretty much about anything and everything that interests me. Connect with me on Google+

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