By now most have seen the original stories and many follow ups regarding the mess which is United Airlines and the doctor dragged off the flight for refusing to give up his seat. While that story continues to have legs, another story made headlines regarding an American Airlines flight attendant, who allegedly struck a woman while attempting to wrestle away her baby stroller. Both incidents steam rolled across the internet, fueled by incriminating video recorded by passengers. If there is one theme I stress more than any other at my media training seminars it’s the fact that cell phones have made everyone a citizen journalist. It is mind boggling that in this era of technology and video, this is a point which still needs to be made today.

So if we didn’t know before, we now hopefully understand that people do know how to successfully use their cell phones to capture a moment. But beyond that, what else have we learned from these cell phone moments? As a journalist, one of my observations is the reactionary nature of these videos. Just like the news media, who usually show up at a scene and capture reaction after an incident, these cell phone incidents are very similar. People push record only after a newsworthy incident is already in progress. As an example, in both of the incidents above, we never see what led up to the man being dragged off the plane or what occurred before the mother was smacked by the baby stroller. We may later get passenger or eyewitness statements, but very few incidents involve video which captures the entirety of any event. Is that to say these incidents and the alleged victims do not have claims? Of course not. But the airlines need to understand that perception, captured on video, is  the only reality the public often needs to make a decision of judgement. This reminds me of retaliation in sports. Regardless of the type of sport, the  referees almost never see or hear the incident leading up to the retaliation.  They only see the act of retaliation and more times than not, that player is the only one penalized.

As for the airline employees accused of wrong doing, how can they not be aware of phones/cameras capturing the moment?

Media Training Lesson 101-the cameras are always rolling. Whether the news media, or the public.