I was in a car on 9/11, stuck in traffic just outside of Washington, D.C. when I heard the news of a “commuter plane” crashing into one of the towers at the World Trade Center on WTOP — the all-news radio station in Washington and the surrounding suburbs.
I was at home in bed with a laptop, about to go to sleep as I checked my Twitter account at around 10:15 Sunday night. After a night of reading and grading, I was beat. As I made one last round through Twitter, I sifted through journalist types talking about President Obama’s 10:45 press conference, before coming across this tweet from Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at around 10:25 p.m.
That was quickly followed by another aide from an intelligence committee tweeting the same, and, then, the information floodgates seemed to burst open. Soon major news organizations were confirming on their own — FOX News and the New York Times were the first — as everyone sat around waiting for the formal announcement from President Obama.
Ten years after 9/11, I found out about Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter — a social media tool that just wasn’t anywhere on the Web journalism radar in 2001.
I yo-yo’d between Twitter, Facebook, online news sites and cable outlets until around 1:30 Monday morning. To watch history unfold before your eyes is just mind-boggling. But, despite all the cheering and cheerleading, I’ve had some mixed emotions about the news. I spent last night and today trying to digest the events, the news coverage and the reactions from around the world.
I’m still digesting but thought I would share some thoughts:
* Technology. On 9/11, the homepage of The Washington Post’s web site was redesigned on the fly. At the time, we thought it was a pretty major development. As I watched the real-time reporting and analysis occur last night on Twitter and Facebook, I began to think how far journalism has come in 10 years. There was even live-blogging going on in Pakistan during the firefight.
The barriers to entry are gone and the news comes at you early and often with social media. I evangelize about the possibilities of social media at every turn. There are still those who wish to ignore it but, honestly, it’s their loss and I grow weary of talking to people who question that serious journalism can happen with a word like “tweet.” Twitter and social media are the future of news distribution. Get used to it.
* Politics. It’s a bit disturbing how quickly some folks today were drooling about the political prospects for Obama’s re-election, in light of the Bin Laden news. It’s evidence yet again of how divided this country has become since 2000.