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Osama bin Laden

Was May 1 a Traditional Publishing Fail?


Here on the BlogWorld blog, I already wrote a bit about how social media is changing the face of historical moments. I know that a number of people found out about Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter or Facebook, and even though I live in Washington, D.C., I opted to stay in and chat with friends online instead of partying on the streets, like so many chose to do in this and other cities across the United States. I think it’s really interesting to see how people all over the world are still talking about this historical event – and social media makes that possible.

I think there’s a deeper question here for those of us in the publishing industry – was the announcement of bin Laden’s death a fail for traditional media?

Yes. And no. At least, in my opinion.

How Traditional Publishing Failed

Before newspapers or magazines around the world even had time to yell “Stop the presses!” new media sources were deep in the analysis and reporting of this story. I’m a Twitter girl more than I am a Facebook girl, but both exploded with the news, with bloggers everywhere feverishly typing to post on the topic. Some of the interesting things I and other members of the BlogWorld team noticed:

  • Someone posted Osama bin Laden is DEAD as a page on Facebook a long time ago, asserting that the terrorist was never going to be found because he was dead. I’m not sure how popular that page was in the past, but as of right now, it has over 466,000 likes and TONS of comments, pictures, etc.
  • A man who lived in the neighborhood unknowing live tweeted the whole thing. At the time, he had no clue what was going on, but he happened to be awake and on Twitter, so now we have a first-person account of what was happening from someone who was really there.
  • Osama bin Laden’s Wikipedia page was updated before President Obama even spoke. Someone added a death date as May first, then someone else edited it to say that his death “was announced on May 1,” since there were rumors flying around that he had been dead for several days.

These are all things that aren’t possible with traditional print media. With a newspaper or magazine or even a static news website, there’s no feedback, no discussion, no life and movement to the story. Traditional media is not about conversation; it is about presenting the facts…and although those facts are important, without room for conversation, they’re not as attractive of an option to most people.

And then there’s the issue of speed.

This announcement was made on Sunday night, well after many people were actually in bed already. At the BlogWorld HQ, Rick picked up both the NY Times and the LA Times – NY made no mention of bin Laden’s death, while LA did. On the East Coast, it must have been just too late to reprint the morning paper.

Did your morning paper cover the story?

This is a problem that doesn’t effect new media. Blogs and social media accounts can be updated around the clock, and while some sites might not have had a story posted right away, they certainly didn’t publish for 24+ hours without addressing the news of his death. That’s essentially what happened with the NY Times though – it was over a day later until they printed a story.

How New Media Failed

As much as I love new media, the kinks aren’t completely worked out yet and perhaps never will be. There was a LOT of misinformation floating around – it would start as speculation or a joke and escalate until people thought it was the truth. Kinda like a massive game of telephone. That’s often a problem with new media – with thousands of people blogging about a topic or posting about a topic on their social media accounts, you’re bound to get one or two that don’t check their sources.

Not that you’d do that ever. You’re a good blogger, just like me. You and I never make mistakes.

Traditional print media? Well, they make mistakes too sometimes, but they have entire fact-checking departments. Plus, they have time to craft their stories, so they aren’t in a rush to spew out as much information, correct or otherwise, as quickly as possible so that they can be one of the first with breaking news.

Amber Naslund said something on Twitter that night that I thought was really interesting (and true, in my opinion):

@AmberCadabra: Dudes. Social media didn’t “win” to break the news. This isn’t a race. I’d rather have a prez that’s methodical and sure, thanks.

I agree, because while I can be as terribly impatient as the next person, I would hate for the president to get the facts wrong. Speed isn’t always the best.

So did new media win? Did traditional forms of publishing fail? Is this another nail in the coffin for newspapers and magazines? I’m not sure – but it certainly is interesting to see the evolution, isn’t it?

Social Media – Changing the Face of Historical Moments


Last night, like many of you, I sat in front of my television and watched as President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. I don’t like the thought of celebrating a death, no matter what, but last night I think we were all happy to see the end of such a destructive symbol of evil in the world. It was one of those historic moments that I’ll never forget, just as many people will never forget where they were or what they were doing when the towers fell. Last night was closure.

I recently moved to the Washington, DC area, so you can imagine what it was like outside my window last night. I opted to stay in, but the celebration was no less rowdy inside – not because I had a party or something, but because Twitter and Facebook were buzzing. Social media has changed the face of historic moments – and I love that.

I love it because we can all celebrate peace together, no matter where we live. My best friend, who is a vet that served in Iraq, lives in Austin, but we were able to talk on Twitter along with our other friends who live all around the country. It was interesting to see the reactions from non-US tweeters, as this wasn’t just a US victory, but rather a world victory. I loved that people shared links, not just to breaking news on the topic, but to their reactions. Not everyone agreed on everything – and that is fine (in fact, I like seeing varying opinions).

Think about where you were when the towers fell, or where you were when you found out that Princess Diana died or even (if you are old enough) where you were when Kennedy got shot or man landed on the moon. How did you find out? Who did you talk with? How did you express your opinions? I’m sure you didn’t tweet or write a blog post or update your Facebook status. But did you do one (or all) of those things last night? I did.

I forget who posted it (I actually saw it as a retweet a few times by different people and apologize that I don’t know the original author), but someone said (and I’m paraphrasing here obviously) that when our kids ask where we were when we found out that bin Laden was dead, won’t it be a shame to say that rather than celebrating with our loved ones or partying in the streets, we were at home in front of a computer tweeting.

I don’t think that’s a shame. Maybe I love social media more than most, but I’m excited that I can share important historical moments with everyone online. You are my loved ones. You are my party on the street. I’m not ashamed at all that I opted to celebrate a historical moment on Twitter rather than in the streets – and I live in DC, where the party was epic and is probably still going on in my places.

I guess, to me it is exciting to see social media changing how the world works. I think we all have the choice to see it as a bad thing or to embrace it, educate ourselves about it, and enjoy the ride! Change is just a fact of life, and in this respect, I think it’s a really awesome thing to see.

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