How did you hear about Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s death this past Thursday?
Was it via newspaper? Television? A friend? or did you see it on your twitter and/or facebook feed before anywhere else?
For myself, and for what I believe is an increasing amount of people, I came across this information via the latter of these options. According to an article on BBC News, Libyan social media users took to sites like Facebook and Twitter in the hundreds, shouting praise at such a symbolic event for the country, showing the final defeat of the old regime and the absolute victory of the rebels.
So are social media sites the new shouting post? Should we not say someone was so happy that they wanted to shout it off the rooftops and instead that they wanted to shout it off their twitter page in a succinct 140 characters?
Jokes aside, social media sites such as twitter and facebook are becoming the go-to places to inform anyone of anything that happens in one’s life, and the bigger the new the bigger the amount of people that will post about it.
It seems that the first impulse from Libyans was to inform the world of two things: 1. The fact that Gaddafi was dead and 2. Their personal feelings about the subject. Keep these two aspects in mind, please.
Another article by Esther Addley discussed how the gap between Gaddafi’s death and the world’s finding out about it was one of the fastest leaks of information in recent history, with a fairly gruesome photo of a dead Muammar Gaddafi forwarded around the web within 90 minutes.
What followed was a first-come first-serve lightning round of journalism, with the credit going to those who break the story fastest. For reporting of this nature, it does not matter whether the journalist belongs to a high profile news outlet or if they are simply operating independently, it’s a completely leveled playing field. Not exactly, because one of the key factors in disseminating information via social media is through a high number of subscribers or followers.
Yet back to the first updates from the Libyans who broke the story. This is where everyone’s information will lead back to no matter what as they were the ones who first reported the facts. Yet it wasn’t just facts that were posted, as tweeting Libyans reported the situation by express their glee at Gaddafi’s death. That right there, the fact that strong, bias-making emotions were tied to this reporting leaves us to a strong argument against renegade reporting:
I can say whatever I want. You can say whatever you want. The New York Times…they can’t say whatever they want. If the original sources start to become unreliable, it brings caution to any information that has sprung from that source as well, even after it has been re-reported over five hundred times. Now something as concrete as a death shouldn’t really be scrutinized for having bias as someone is dead or they are not. But even that isn’t always true.
Reports via twitter lack the oversight necessary to produce not just quality journalism, but true journalism. It is for this cause that people still read newspapers such as the new york times, because they generally respect the writing.
This is all just another example of lightning reporting versus slow and steady reporting, with both claiming equally important merits.