OR Ding Dong, The Terrorist Is Dead
(This post isn’t Really about the death of Osama bin Laden.)
It was either on Friday or on Saturday that a bunch of friends mentioned that they rely primarily on Twitter for their news. Honestly, it struck me as just a little bit odd. While up until Sunday night, I did get headlines from a number of mainstream news organizations via Twitter, I mostly got my news by reading online editions of various newspapers. But Sunday’s night’s news of the killing of Osama bin Laden really changed all that for me.
I found myself on Twitter as the first word came around that President Obama was going to make a big announcement. And honestly, the jokes about the several-times delayed Obama announcement had barely gotten started when I heard on Twitter that the announcement was almost certainly that Osama bin Laden had been killed by US forces. When Obama finally spoke, the White House site refused to serve me video and the NY Times site was inaccessible due to very heavy traffic. But Twitter never slowed down for a moment and by following hash tags and people you hear are tweeting live from in front of the White House or Times Square in New York. On the tv, which my spouse prevailed in Not tuning to any of the news channels during or after Obama’s address, it was widely reported that anchors were reading tweets on the air. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I need a journalism degree to read the tweets for myself.
I got quotes and reactions to quotes during the speech and discussion with friends and strangers as each detail emerged. It felt as though the whole wide world was talking about the Osama bin Laden story before, during and after it’s release in the mainstream media. The act of sharing that big news story, both with my online friends and with citizen journalists reporting as the story breaks and people react to it felt more like living the story than merely reading about it or seeing a tv broadcaster report about it.
I tweeted to my friend that the experience of watching the Osama Killed story unfold on Twitter was going to force me to rethink the definitions of “news” and “interactive”. I strongly suspect the next time there is a big story breaking, I will most likely be hanging out on Twitter, both discovering and reacting to it with a community of friends and strangers. Some people I know and talk to all the time. And others who will be strangers to me, at least at the beginning. For now I follow some of the people I met during the Osama story–I seem to be constantly gaining Twitter followers and Facebook friends these days. And while I will not be canceling my cable tv subscriptions or avoiding newspaper web sites, it really does feel to me that the primary way I access news just changed. I suspect I will have occasion to write again that “the story Broke on Twitter.”