Earlier this week, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram put the world right in the middle of Boylston St. with the runners of the Boston Marathon. Before national media outlets could gather the facts for television, spectators were first on the scene, sharing photos and video available for anyone casually browsing a social media site. Had the sophisticates at CNN, MSNBC and Fox been outdone by a bunch of amateur smart phones?
The Boston bombing scene has produced some of the most intense images the American media has ever reported. Limbs. Blood. Bones. Photos surfacing were all prefaced with a warning of ‘extremely graphic content.’ There was no time, however, for the multitude of images to be censored by bias or network executives. Everything was happening so fast, for a minute there it very well may have been an example of – dare we say it – balanced news reporting.
It’s unsettling that the grief and chaos felt at this time challenges Americans to fight familiar feelings that came on a September day over eleven years ago, but social media also created instant heroes before interviews could be conducted; sharing stories of marathon runners that kept charging past the finish line to give blood at Mass General, or the father of a fallen soldier, securing a stranger’s severed artery.
Could it be that some of the false media reports published by national news networks were prompted by coverage provided faster by spectating civilians?
What we can asses from the Patriot Day catastrophe is the fact that the reporting of this story was a collective effort between broadcasters, internet sites and most importantly, the American people. Going far beyond the call of ‘send us your pics,’ posting and tweeting played an essential role in the progression of the developing news. We can expect to keep seeing social media evolve journalism in this way.
Monday afternoon we shared in tragedy, but also in loud resilience: days later, ‘#prayforboston’ still trends worldwide on Twitter. Sharing the stories about the selfless citizens of one of the oldest cities in the United States bravely affirms that we are both a people of strength, and people with a voice. At the end of the day, we cared about one another; social media gave us an opportunity to prove that.
We leave you with fellow journalist, Jon Stewart’s address to Boston: “Thank you. Thank you for once again for, in the face of gross inhumanity, inspiring and solidifying my belief in humanity and the people of this country.”