The people formerly known as the audience: Social-media technologies allow a far wider range of people to take part in gathering, filtering and distributing news

The announcement that Barack Obama would shortly appear on television came late in the evening on May 1st. “POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10.30pm eastern time,” tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, communications director at the White House. This caused an explosion of speculation on Twitter. Had Muammar Qaddafi been killed in an air strike? Had Osama bin Laden been tracked down at last? At first these two theories had roughly equal support, measured by the volume of tweets. But then Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for Donald Rumsfeld, a former defence secretary, had a call from a well-connected television news producer who wanted to interview Mr Rumsfeld about the killing of bin Laden. Mr Urbahn tweeted: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.”His message quickly rippled across Twitter. Television news channels began to report the story, which was confirmed by Mr Obama an hour later. It subsequently turned out that Sohaib Athar, a computer consultant living in Abbottabad, the Pakistani village where bin Laden had been hiding, had unwittingly described the operation as it happened in a series of tweets (“A huge window-shaking bang here in Abbottabad…I hope it’s not the start of something nasty”).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.