Cell Phones Increasingly Used to Snap the News

Twice in one month the biggest Dutch newspaper published front-page pictures shot by amateur photographers using their mobile phones, showing how advances in technology can assist traditional media in gathering news.

De Telegraaf daily newspaper, with circulation of close to 800,000 copies, Wednesday published a picture of the dead filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh who police say was probably killed by an Islamic militant.

Passerby Aron Boskma took a picture with his cell phone at the scene of the crime in Amsterdam. News photographers arrived only after the body had been covered, leaving Boskma’s picture the only one showing knives plunged into Van Gogh’s body.

“This picture was the story. There was a discussion if we should use it, but everyone who would have had this picture would have published it,” Telegraaf pictures editor Peter Schoonen said, commenting on the trend of using cell phones to snap the news.

In the past, amateur videos or photographs have provided the only footage or images of major news events but with more ordinary people carrying cell phones equipped with cameras there is far more likelihood of snatched images being published.

In another example of technology making the news, the upsurge in sales of digital cameras, which can quickly transmit and distribute images internationally, was highlighted in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq when digital pictures of humiliated Iraqi prisoners shocked the world.


Nordic newspapers have also published photographs taken with mobile phones with built-in cameras.

In Sweden, a ferry collision filmed with a cell phone was shown on national television last year. Last month, Dutch newspapers published photographs shot with a cell phone from a police shoot-out in the town of Enschede, made available to Dutch news agency ANP.

“We offer these pictures if we don’t have them ourselves, and only if it’s really big news,” said ANP pictures editor Leo Blom, adding he too would have distributed the Van Gogh picture to the Dutch media if only it had been offered to him.

ANP receives camera phone pictures through a collaboration with Internet news Web site Nu.nl, which offers money and prizes to amateur photographers who send in pictures.

In Japan, where many people own a camera-equipped cell phone, it has become common to sell pictures to television stations and other media outlets.

Chief executive of the world’s biggest mobile phone maker Nokia, Jorma Ollila, said at a conference Wednesday that 200 million camera phones are expected to be sold to consumers this year alone.

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