You can’t unsee that: There’s no deleting the live experience

Follow me:

Jim MacMillan

Independent Journalist at
I am a solutions-oriented independent multimedia journalist, based in Philadelphia.
Follow me:

Latest posts by Jim MacMillan (see all)

When Winnipeg Free Press photojournalist Boris Minkevich arrived at the fire scene yesterday, he pressed Periscope’s “Start Broadcast” button on his iPhone — which he had mounted atop one of his still cameras — and took us behind the scenes as he got close to the action.

As a former news photographer myself, I marveled at reliving the process — stepping toward a gate and pausing to check for resistance before moving into places that most people don’t get to see. And hearing his camera click when people, backgrounds and good light came together.

After I reached out, Minkevich tweeted one of his photos from the scene with a little explanation of his workflow:

And then there was the interview
. A fire department official explained that a grass fire had damaged some fences and sheds and had caused an estimated $10,000 damage.

He delivered the news in a perfectly appropriate but casual tone, the kind of response which might greet a reporter with a notebook.

Then, as he began to understand that his words were going out live, his cadence sharpened, he called the photographer “Sir,” and he repeated the information, more like it might be delivered to a TV crew with a big, shiny truck, a camera on a tripod and a reporter in a colorful blazer.

Then, shifting back to a friendlier tone, he suggested that the photographer should have told him he was live and asked “Are you going to delete the first part?”

Pioneering journalists – like Minkevich in this case — always raise a lot of questions and this exercise left me with many.

Why should tone matter, how did we get like this and — most importantly — what’s going to happen now that live streaming video news coverage is emerging with a new low profile, more easily and potentially much more often?

Do we owe it to our sources to help them understand that our coverage is now live, online and forever? Maybe we should all get phone cases that say as much? With a big red dot on the back?

With the sudden and rapid emergence of easy mobile live-streaming, journalists will face a new round of ethical, practical and legal questions.

We may have every right to stream comments from public officials in public places, but are we being fair if we don’t inform them?

Or, has it always been a mistake to presume sources understood that everything they say in front of a phone could wind up online, globally and forever?

Finally, Minkevich tweeted this photo of his setup:

Watch the report:

Looking ahead: In a future post, I will detail how I captured and shared this video but for now I will tell you that there is no simple solution at present.

I have figured out that you can view archived videos from Periscope users for only 24 hours — and only on mobile devices, not web browsers. So, that doesn’t make anything easier.

Meanwhile: What else is wrong with the latest live-streaming platforms, and what are the workarounds?

And what other questions are coming to mind for you?