The killing – I’ll leave the tags of murder, assassination etc up to you – of Osama Bin Laden it became clear that the media star of the moment was Twitter. OK, it was fortunate that Sohaib Athar and Mohsin Shah lived in the same village as the assault helicopters began their flight in to the compound and gave a running commentary.
This was then compounded, if you’ll excuse the pun, when Keith Urbahn, former chief of staff for ex-Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed the death after talking to a reputable source. Frankly I am surprised that Twitter’s servers withstood the strain but survive they did and there was a running commentary from the Twittersphere until conventional broadcast media got its ass into gear and picked up from there.
Yesterday I was reading a Hunter S Thompson article about the killing of Rueben Salazer by Los Angeles police in the early 70s and the suppression of the Chicano viewpoint in favour of the police version of events. How would we have reacted had Twitter been around then? Whose point of view would we have believed?
In the UK we currently have a media super injunction crisis where certain famous individuals have gone to court to prevent the media reporting they have been exchanging bodily fluids with third parties they are not married to. Someone used Twitter to blow this apart publishing the names of individuals they believed had taken out the injunctions.
What if they had got names wrong? What happens if I think a certain sportsman is a total arse and wrongly post on Twitter that he is having an affair with someone else I think is a pillock. Irresponsible, mischievous, criminal?
I trained as a journalist and would like to believe I reported events in an unbiased manner and that journalists have a social responsibility not to report news in a biased political or social manner. Now I realise that is naive and unattainable but you can’t blame a chap for having hope, can you? So how do we filter the news from the likes of Twitter? Will we automatically believe one Twitter source because it fits with our political and social mindset?
Twitter and social media in general as a replacement media source has, as far as I am concerned, a long way to go before it can call itself a responsible and authoritative source of news.