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Whitney Houston's cause of death was hinted at on Twitter, it seems, supporting the rumor that she drowned. And it happened more than 40 minutes before the mainstream media picked up the story. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers mourn the sad loss of a great talent, but are fascinated by our brave, new, interconnected world.
By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: Debunking the "no melt of Himalayan glaciers" canard...
Topsy's anonymous blogging gnomes report:
News of singer Whitney Houstons death spread like wildfire on Twitter since the news broke with a tweet from Associated Press. ... [But] news was first broken [40 minutes] earlier...[when Aja Dior M.,] a relative of a hotel worker who reportedly found Whitney Houston, [said]..."my aunt..found whitney houston dead in the tub." ... The first full hour after the news broke saw 2,481,652 tweets and retweets, peaking at...over a thousand tweets a second. ... Hundreds of thousands of people mourned her passing away [on] Twitter.
Samantha Murphy adds:
Aja Dior M.['s]...tweet also alludes to the rumor...that Houston drowned in the bathtub. ... Celebrity tweets also spread like wildfire throughout the site as many retweeted [them]. ... Rapper Lil Wayne had the most retweets (29,000), followed by Justin Bieber (15,000), Nicki Minaj (9,000)...
Aja Dior M. follows up with this heartfelt tweet from her Android phone:
my mom just started bustin out with all these tears :'( , everytime she cry , I cry.
Mainstream-media asleep at the switch? Mark Edwards ain't surprised:
February 11, 2012...[was] the night that radio...proved itself irrelevant because Houston's untimely death happened [at] a time when the majority of American radio stations...[ran] most of their programming using automation...where a faraway Air Personality records the things said...days in advance. ... Many local radio stations only are live weekdays from 6AM-7PM...thousands of radio stations were already running unmanned from empty buildings, airing..."it's Saturday night and nobody is listening" content. ... So who DID cover the death of Whitney Houston best? ... CNN and Piers Morgan. ... And few if any stations have a real contingency plan for situations like [this]. ... If you're a radio owner, manager, programmer, or the newest "Baby DJ"...radio is now more than just radio. What's the plan to update text message subscribers, social networks, and your website?
And Beverly Macy lyrically explores the zeitgeist:
A friend mentioned today that it felt like we experienced a group hug on Twitter. ... The shock sped around the world...we consoled one another on Twitter and Facebook. ... There is comfort in knowing you are not alone. ... That conversation takes on new meaning now. Today we live...in real-time on social media. ... These moments are the true unscripted reality show of our shared experience.
But Matthew Hurst criticizes the entire premise of the story:
This kind of article is misleading...it gives no consideration to all the other 'news' first reported on twitter which turns out to be incorrect. The...media is responsible for fact checking [so saying it's] behind the times because it didn't 'report' something sooner...is annoying. ... In these situations, twitter should be thought of as a sensor network in which some sensors may be noisy.
However, Mathew Ingram thinks that's short-sighted:
In the not-so-distant past, news generally tended to travel in a few well-worn paths. ... 24-hour news changed all that...and Twitter and Facebook have changed it again. ... Whenever theres a news event like [this] someone inevitably points out that Twitter also routinely reports things that arent true. ... But this ignores the fact that mainstream media outlets also routinely report things that arent true...[because] the news cycle is being accelerated. ... [I]nstead of having days to report...journalists now have hours, and in some cases only minutes.
Meanwhile, Gloria Goodale searches for context:
Robert Thompson...of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture...[says] just because social media is expanding does not...mean that legacy media such as broadcast TV needs to die. ... Rather, he says, these tools coexist and feed one another. Most people...sit in front of a show like The Bachelor and tweet their outrage over who got the rose. ... The danger in social media is the rush to be first on a news story, says former broadcast newsman John Goodman. ... The thicket of legal and ethical issues will continue to grow...points out Florida attorney Larry Walters. ... Indeed, its not at all clear where new tools will take us, says London-based new-media specialist Alan Stevens. ... This is a typical, first flush of usage for a new technology, says Charles Palmer...of the Center for Advanced Entertainment & Learning Technologies.
Peter Himler despairs, saying "Get used to it":
Of course, Twitter broke the news...journalists are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. Didnt some randoid in Pakistan unwittingly...tweet about those helicopters hovering over Osama Bin Laden? ... Or wasnt a man-on-the-street first to observe...Sully Sullenbergers miraculous landing...in the Hudson? ... [The] APs official tweet...was itself re-tweeted some 10,000 times...not too shabby. ... Maybe APs new social media editor Eric Carvin [can] now...convince his bosses to lighten up and get in on the Twitter thang. ... Finally...we learn that within 30 minutes of her death, SONY Music raised the prices for her music. ... Wouldnt SONY have gained so much more by reducing the price?
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch, for which he has won ASBPE and Neal awards. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.