Tuned In

I Watched It In the Newspaper

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The most compelling TV of the week is in a newspaper. A newspaper website, to be specific: Britain’s Sun newspaper is hosting the cockpit video of a U.S. “friendly fire” incident that killed a British soldier. The footage isn’t graphic or gruesome–it’s powerful, really, because you see the targets the way the targeters see them, as distant objects and blips on a screen. The power of the footage is in the contrast of this, and the workmanlike radio talk–“Looks like we may have a blue on blue situation”–with your knowledge that somebody is about to die.

[Note: I haven’t actually been able to watch the video on the Sun website–I have software issues, perhaps because I’m using a Mac. I watched the video on YouTube, where clips have been showing up and have been taken down repeatedly. A search on “friendly fire” should turn them up, once you scroll past the Sean Lennon videos. I won’t embed the video, because the specific clip may disappear and because I don’t know the fair-use legality, but the Sun video is here.]

Even raw and unexpurgated, the video leaves a lot to interpretation–is the pilot overcome with remorse or just worried about getting in trouble? (“We’re f___ed… I’m going to be sick.” “We’re in jail, dude.”) I’ll leave the debate over fog of war and responsibility to you. From a media-watcher’s standpoint, it seems like online newspapers are finally figuring out what to do with their online-video capability and using it to do what neither network TV nor their print versions can. We also saw it last month when the New York Times ran its first-person video obituary of Art Buchwald, using streaming video to create something we haven’t seen before.

It looks like this is the year of the newspaper as online broadcaster; it’s just too bad people had to die to make it so.