The world was riveted last week by the shaky three-minute cellphone video of Saddam Hussein’s execution, which was apparently taken surreptitiously and quickly became one of the most-watched videos on the Web.
It was the latest reminder that the device that tens of millions of people are now carrying around in their pockets is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful news-gathering tools on Earth. These phones are proliferating, increasing the chances that they will be on the scene when news is made. The quality of their images is improving greatly, as well, to the point that even some professional news people use them.
The combination is certain to be more incidents like last week’s execution and the racially charged nightclub tirade by comedian Michael Richards that also was captured on a cellphone camcorder and became an instant sensation on Web sites like Google Inc.’s YouTube and Google Video. While most cellphone users aren’t trained journalists, they are much more likely to be on the scene when a disaster occurs or a celebrity acts up.