This past week, Twitter and Facebook went crazy over Michael Jackson’s death. Of course, we’re not the only ones that noticed – apparently so did the Telegraph, Bloomberg, TechRadar and even the Mirror. We’re constantly being told that social media will replace traditional media as the channel for hearing about news. Considering MJ’s demise was huge news around the world, how did our four bloggers hear about it?
Kate: Contrary to social media predictions, I heard about Michael Jackson’s illness whilst watching Newsnight – and tweeted about it. After that, I did a twitter search on Michael Jackson, and there was easily 1000+ tweets per minute. The tweets were a mixture of RIP messages, praise for Jackson and confusion – was Jacko really dead? (Incidentally, TMZ confirmed the news first, then LA Times, and it was 11.46pm when the BBC finally confirmed.) Even all the trending topics were all about MJ (#MJ, Michael Jackson, cardiac). Despite finding out through TV, let me point out how rare this is; I was only watching because I was away in London at the time. I would have more likely found out by Twitter or Facebook instead. Has social media changed the way I get my news? Oh yes indeed.
Jessica: I was at home watching a movie when it happened, but I randomly glanced at Twitter around midnight and saw tweets from Kate about MJ having just died. My initial feeling was that it was a hoax, but I scanned the rest of my feed and saw her many updates tracking the story. When I noticed @BreakingNews had tweeted the same news, I began to accept it as true (sorry Kate, I should have trusted you…). Nosy for more info, I googled the topic and found an article detailing the hospital visit – dang, it was no ‘June Fools’ trick! I used to be days behind on recent happenings, but lately I’ve felt ‘in the know’ with @BreakingNews informing me on the Holocaust Museum shooting, EU elections, and DC Metro crash almost immediately – it’s so handy!
Bela: I first heard about MJ’s death from Jess, who was sitting next to me when she saw a tweet about it. So the first thing I did was check Google to see if there were any other reports of this. I’ve kinda stopped watching the news or listening to it on the radio – a lot of my news comes from talking to people first. It would appear that I’m not alone in this. The following day, I was sitting in the Forest Cafe when a guy jumped up and asked everyone loudly “Has anyone read the paper today?”. Nobody answered. (I’m not sure quite what he was thinking as the Forest Cafe audience doesn’t immediately strike me as the typical broadsheet or tabloid paper reading type). Anyway, the reason for the question was that his female companion had not heard anything about MJ’s death and did not believe him when he mentioned it. So we all had to inform her that it was true.
Thomas: The event will probably be remembered as one of those which actually shook the internet. The BBC news website traffic was 40% above average, a website which is one of the most visited in Europe. I am concerned about the way news propagates around the globe these days. I got a random text message announcing his death whilst having a pint, seconds after my pub-mate also got a couple of similar text messages. I checked the BBC website because it is a trusted source, but what if the BBC now sources its information from social networks – does it not make it more difficult to trace and authenticate the source of the information? Wikipedia has the same problem. Because it is edited by us, the people, anybody can insert anything which trusted media can then re-use – which gives the erronous information a trusted status. Don’t get me wrong; Twitter, Wikipedia, Facebook, and other social network platforms are great, but how do we assess the quality of information now?
How did you hear about MJ’s death? Do you feel that social media will overtake traditional media in getting your news?