Social media break news ... again
There was a time that people didn’t see the news until days later. The front pages of newspapers on Dec. 8, 1941, did not show a collage of destruction in Pearl Harbor; it was one blurry picture of smoke and fire.
Words had to be vivid enough to explain damage or celebrations. A reporter’s job was to set a scene, along with giving those vital facts.
Imagining the news back in that time isn’t easy. Even the news on Sept. 11, 2001, wasn’t subject to Twitter updates, mass blogging and internet postings.
In the past weeks, Americans have gotten a look at just how far the news has come.
Tornadoes lost their mystery. More than a third of the world watched a royal wedding from thousands of miles away, getting second-by-second updates. More was known about the slaying of Osama bin Laden in the first 24 hours than any other special ops operation in history.
There is a large debate about social media and online journalism. And I will admit, sometimes quick isn’t right; sometimes right isn’t quick. But one thing no one can debate: Americans are more informed, more ready to react, than ever, because of social media.
Take the Alabama tornadoes, for example. I knew the storms were coming. I knew they were strong. But within a half hour of the tornado, Twitter was a buzz with videos of the destruction and pictures of the aftermath.
I saw cell phone videos from third-story windows, aerial photos of the tornado’s path and stories from hundreds of people who experienced it first hand.
This past Sunday, the world’s most wanted terrorist was killed. The social media buzz started with a single tweet, from a man in Pakistan complaining about the noise of a helicopter. All of the details of a mission that was kept secret for more than six months were public in a matter of hours. Live blogs updated every minute.
Through it all, surprisingly, Twitter and Facebook stayed alive. A huge percentage of my friends list had updates. Within an hour, video footage was available of inside the compound where bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, showing blood on the carpet and the house in ruins.
Every major news outlet had a camera at Ground Zero or in front of the White House. And I watched it all from my couch.
Fifty years ago, we were confined to a grainy image or two. Ten years ago, news and pictures were available within hours. Now, high-definition, high-volume video, stills and facts are available within minutes.
It’s taken awhile, but we are finally here.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.