A month or two ago I was standing in my kitchen watching a live report on CNN about a bus that had gone off the road in the Atlanta area. It being in their backyard, CNN was all over it. I stood there wondering ‘why all the fuss?’ Of course, in the beginning it wasn’t known how serious the injuries, but even when it was determined the injuries weren’t severe, CNN kept on it, showing us live images of a bus in the ditch.
Fast forward to November 29th, four cops are shot dead in an ambush as they do paperwork in a coffeeshop in an otherwise quiet northwestern town. Where is CNN? I kept checking all the big networks and there was astonishingly little coverage of this horrific event. So I “switched channels” to Twitter. Truth is I was on Twitter all along but I all but quit paying attention to the so-called experts at the big networks.
For all the criticism given “citizen journalism” of late, as one who has followed many breaking stories over Twitter in recent months, I’ve seen very few inaccuracies given the volume of information. And taken as a whole within the enormous number of sources from which the information flows, I think consumers of news are in far better hands when the people themselves, tell the people.
Did the large organizations not give the shooting much attention because it didn’t happen in a large city? If those cops were Atlanta cops and this happened where that bus went off the road I think CNN would have had a lot more to say.
It wasn’t only citizen journalists on Twitter. The Seattle Times did a decent job with tweets from both @seattletimes and David Boardman, (@dlboardman) the paper’s executive editor. Seattle PI (@seattlepi), KING (@KING5Seattle) were tweeting and KIRO (@KIRO7Seattle) did an excellent job, when its helicopter wasn’t hampering police investigation.
But the really interesting information came from the people who live near the locations where the police were looking for suspect Maurice Clemmons. There were some false reports that an arrest had been made at a house in Renton. That turned out to not be true and was cleared up quickly.
To be honest, the news outlets may have increased their coverage of the shooting as it continued passed noon Monday. I’m not even sure. I checked in with the big networks and cable outlets sporadically. All they were covering was Tiger and the various ways his woodies were causing him problems. That and the couple who crashed the White House dinner.
What I do know is that for the more than 40 hours that Maurice Clemmons was on the run, Twitter streamed more real news as an aggregate of everyone’s tweets than any news outlet could ever pretend to do.
I simply think that the big boys and girls should pretend a little harder. Because the ones who really suffer in all this are the people who aren’t on Twitter and who don’t know, or didn’t have access to, the live coverage on KIRO or KING. They are those who trust the main media outlets to determine what’s news and make the assumption that if the main outlets didn’t cover it, it must not be important. In my Monday afternoon class at the college (The New England Institute of Art) I mentioned the shooting to my students. Their reaction was along the lines of “what shooting?”. But they know Tiger and the Mrs. had a massive argument and that Tiger may have learned some new uses for his golf clubs.
At least it’s over. Clemmons killed by a lone Seattle police officer this morning around 2:45. The officer who shot him even gave him the chance to stop and show his hands. It will be interesting to see what happens to the accomplices, three arrests as I write this, apparently more arrests are imminent. I’ll be checking Twitter for that news as well.
For more on how traditional media is being affected by social media see Mark Economou’s earlier post on ConnectedCOPS “Law Enforcement working as Journalists”.