By Adam L. Penenberg
When former Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael K.
Powell watched television coverage of the London bombings last week,
he noticed that most of the significant pictures didn't originate from
professional photographers employed by news agencies. They came from
witnesses at the scene using cell phones and digital cameras to
document the tragedy.
"Journalists are trained not to be emotional, like a doctor doesn't
fall in love with his patients," Powell said. "But people experiencing
a tragedy can convey what actually happened while at the same time
express deep emotion and engage in spirited storytelling. A photo of
someone climbing up through train wreckage is extremely powerful. A
reporter rolling up to the scene behind a police line can rarely give
Before, blogging was largely fixated on the failure of mainstream
media. Now it has become a necessary supplement, and in some cases, a
substitute. But Powell takes this a step further. To him, London
showed that blogging has morphed into the art of raw, personalized
"You really felt as if you were there," Powell said of the blog posts
and Flickr photos he surveyed, "as opposed to watching CNN or reading
MSNBC.com, which are fine for the facts but stale and a bit removed."
Powell was far from the only one who turned to the blogosphere for
perspectives on the London terror attacks. David Sifry, founder of
Technorati, a real-time search engine for blog content, reports that
traffic to the site in the hours after the attacks was so heavy that
its servers had trouble handling the load, causing performance
The number of posts on blogs tracked by Technorati increased 30
percent, from about 850,000 a day in July to 1.2 million on the day of
the attacks. Nine of the 10 most popular search requests involved the
unfolding tragedy in London.
If you think about it, Technorati has become a public utility on a