Citizen Journalism In History: George Holliday

Citizen Journalism In History: George Holliday

The first part of our “Citizen Journalism In History” series was dedicated to Janis Krums, who is the poster child for citizen journalism in the age of social media. By publishing the first photo of the floating US Airways 1549, Krums not only became a media darling but also set a milestone for citizen journalism.

Talking about milestones, there’s one event in recent history that changed citizen journalism forever.


George Holliday & The Rodney King Video

In the early morning of March 3, 1991 a man was woken up by the sounds of sirens. Then 31-year old George Holliday went out on his balcony where he could witness police officers beating someone lying on the ground. Holliday, who bought a Sony Handycam a couple of weeks ago, took the chance and videotaped the whole incident.

When trying to find out more about what happened, neither the news nor the police could or would provide any information. So instead of forgetting the whole incident, George Holliday contacted a local news station. After being aired on KTLA-TV, the 12-minutes long Rodney King video became nationwide news – and a political issue.

One year after Rodney King was beat up by the police, four officers were charged with assault and use of excessive force but eventually acquitted by the jury. This lead to a series of of riots, the Los Angeles riots, during which 55 people were killed.

Today, only a few people know the name of the man who recorded the Rodney King video. According to a KTLA-TV, the news station who first aired it, Holliday was paid $500 even though he never asked for money. Holliday, on the other side, tried to claim his rights without much success. In this special case, the First Amendment right (freedom of expression and access to information) outweighed the creator’s copyright.