By Tuan Nguyen
Posting in Government
The fact that news of such historical significance was first reported over Twitter may signal a monumental shift in how people receive their information.
As President Barack Obama was preparing to announce to the nation that Osama Bin Laden had finally been brought to justice, the news had already become THE topic of conversation on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
It was Keith Urbahn, chief of staff under former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who publicly broke the news on his Twitter account, according to the New York Times and other major news sources. At 10:25 PM eastern standard time, he tweeted, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
He quickly followed up with another message that stated, "Don't know if its true, but let's pray that it is."
The New York Times' Brian Stelter chronicles the domino effect immediately following his initial tweet:
Within minutes, anonymous sources at the Pentagon and the White House started to tell reporters the same information. ABC, CBS and NBC interrupted programming across the country at almost the same minute, 10:45 p.m., with the news. “We’re hearing absolute jubilation throughout government,” the ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz reported.
Brian Williams, an NBC News anchor, told viewers, “This story started to leak out in the public domain largely when some Congressional staffers started to make phone calls.”
The government sources remained anonymous, as The Associated Press said, “in order to speak ahead of the president.”
Mr. Obama’s address, initially planned for 10:30 p.m., was delayed repeatedly. CNN reported that he was writing the address himself.
By 11 p.m., he still had not spoken, but the news was spreading virally around the world. At that time there were more than a dozen Facebook posts with the word “bin Laden” every single second. The New York Post’s Web site blared, “We Got Him!” The Huffington Post front page read, “Dead.” Around the country, Americans gathered around televisions to digest the news. “This ends a chapter in the global war on terrorism which has defined a generation,” the NBC correspondent Richard Engel said.
The fact that news of such historical significance was first reported over Twitter instead of traditional news channels may signal a monumental shift in how people receive their information. The instantaneous nature of live micro-blogging has already enabled groups in Egypt and Iran to organize protests by bypassing any kind of potentially disruptive interference from government censors and other authorities.
So it shouldn't be much of surprise that it's also a handy tool for quickly relaying information from the front lines of major events. For instance, while the news media is still -- even as of this writing -- wrapping their minds around what had just transpired, Mashable is reporting that another Twitter user had already been posting, as it happened, details of the U.S. military raid that took down the world's most wanted terrorist.
Jolie O'Dell reports:
Without knowing what he was doing, Sohaib Athar, a.k.a. @ReallyVirtual, has more or less just live-tweeted the raid in which terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed today.
The IT consultant resides in Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden was found and killed by a U.S. military operation.
Athar first posted about events surrounding the raid ten hours before the writing of this article, writing, “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” He didn’t realize that he’d been tweeting about a top-secret attempt to kill an internationally wanted terrorist until nine hours later.
Athar reported that one of the copters he’d heard had crashed, and that the aircraft were not Pakistani. We now know that four helicopters had been sent to raid bin Laden’s mansion in the town, and one was hit by enemy fire from the ground.
During the raid, Athar speculates that he was two or three kilometers away from the shooting that took place. Once news broke that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Athar tweeted, “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”
Athar further reported that traffic was shut down in some areas, and the army had cordoned off the helicopter crash site.
Yet he remains humble. “I am JUST a tweeter, awake at the time of the crash. Not many twitter users in Abbottabad, these guys are more into facebook. That’s all.”
But from this journalist's perspective, it IS a big deal. Let's not forget that it wasn't too long ago that the established media was both reviled and revered as a "gatekeeper" for the important news of the day. But now, in the age of instant news, sites like Twitter have forced people to re-assess that notion.
So what kind of role will established media like CNN and news wires have now? To confirm or dispel reports from the persistent rumor mill, even as the information spreads at a viral pace throughout the Twitter and Facebook universe? Perhaps to provide comprehensive in-depth reporting, images and analysis that helps the public make sense of all the racket?
What do you think?
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May 1, 2011
The President should have gone on air announcing this victory within minutes, not hours, after it happened. What was he so fearful of that he had to pour over the words to announce this victory? Just be an American, go on air and tell it like it happened. Oh, I guess he was worried about not using enough pregnant pauses for effect so he had to carefully craft this simple Patriotic message.
So - does that mean that if I tweeted that there is a literally no side-effect cure for many kinds of cancer that is being systematically blocked by big PhRMA, the cancer industry (very big business!), and our very own FDA - would the name Burzynski finally go viral? See www.burzynskimovie.com
That news media was not informed. The operation itself was secret with few outside of the group knowing what was happening, even the Pakistani government was out of the loop. The tweet from next door to OBL was the bit that started the information rolling. Twitter may be good for alerts regarding events; but it can also start rumors and spread bad information as easily as any phone call.
reported on Twitter that Obama had been killed http://dailycaller.com/2011/05/02/typo-msnbc-correspondent-accidentally-reports-on-twitter-that-obama-killed/ It's not only important to be fast but also to be correct.
I for one American,I am glad to see they got Bin laden,but they should have cut his head off and put it on a spike at ground zero NY as a warning to all who attack the USA..America is not the worlds enemy,it's terrorist like this that are.
Keith Urbahn did, according to your post...but I suppose you say the NYT broke a story, not the reporter. I tweeted it at 10:48 after Wolf Blitzer first said it on CNN.
I wonder if anyone has kept any tabs on the failed stories through Twitter where they turned out to be untrue. In the scheme of things me knowing 10 hourse earlier is not THAT important. If I were trying to advise my forces to go on a higher alert I may well be dismayed that the news was leaked by an old insider on the worlds most insecure network.
He was waiting for the DNA test results to confirm the results of the raid. Sheesh, the right are being whiny-ass titty babies about Obama just like the left was about Bush. So much for maturity in American politics...
Yikes! Hope I don't ever make a mistake like that. I'm sure she's pretty embarrassed about it. - Tuan
how many civilian people killed by US army in afghanestan , iraq , somalia before and now in lebia ? bin laden killed 3000 american ( if that true ) and US killed milions after that. just be honest in your judgment
I dont think thats a good idea! There would be signifcant retaliative response and will put all Americans at risk.