Accuracy in Media

Last night’s news of the death of Osama Bin Laden may have been the clearest example of the 24/7 news cycle we now live in and how ill prepared networks are to compete in this new environment.

As the networks were engrossed in their usual Sunday night programming, a tweet by Keith Urbahn, the one-time chief of staff to former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was credited by The New York Times for alerting the world to Bin Laden’s death.

“So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

Urbahn’s tweet was sent out at 10:25 p.m. and was soon confirmed by anonymous sources at the Pentagon and the White House. The networks then broke the news at 10:45 p.m.  and the President added his confirmation of Bin Laden’s death at 11:35 p.m.

The twenty minute differential between the initial tweet and the networks’ announcement is, in Internet time, an eternity.  That one tweet rocketed around the world and was available to the estimated 200 million registered users instantaneously while non-techies had to wait until the old media caught up with the rest of the world.

Twitter triumphed much in the same way that CNN did over twenty years ago when they reported on the start of the Gulf War and had viewers glued to their television sets. That was the old model.

In a very short time Twitter has gone from a novelty microblogging site to an essential part of the news stream, and this scoop should help cement its place  in our new media landscape.



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