A publication of the World Editors Forum


Sun - 17.12.2017

Osama Bin Laden killed by US. forces: how the news spread

Osama Bin Laden killed by US. forces: how the news spread

US President Obama has given a statement confirming the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, killed by US Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as the BBC News reported (you can find the video here).

The way that the news of such a dramatic, sudden development spread around the world provides an interesting impression of today's news landscape.

Unsurprisingly, before Obama's official announcement on TV, the news had already hit Twitter.

As Tech Crunch reported, the first credible feedback came from Keith Urbahn, the Chief of Staff for former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who tweeted "I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden." CBS news producer Jill Scott then reiterated the rumour and Urbahn and Scott's tweets were re-tweeted hundreds of times.

As Twitter declared, its traffic reached more than 4,000 tweets per second at the beginning and end of President Obama's speech.

Brian Stelter on New York Times' Media Decoder also reported on how the announcement leaked out.

"The terse announcement came just after 9:45 p.m. Sunday from Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. "POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern Time," he wrote on Twitter, sharing the same message that had just been transmitted to the White House press corps", the article said.

After Urbahn's tweet, while waiting for Obama's speech, which was first announced for 10:30 pm and repeatedly delayed, ABC, CBS and NBC interrupted their programs at almost the same time - 10:45 pm - to give the news, crediting anonymous sourced at the Pentagon and the White House, Stelter reported.

"By 11 p.m., he still had not spoken, but the news was spreading virally around the world. At that time there were more than a dozen Facebook posts with the word "bin Laden" every single second. The New York Post's Web site blared, "We Got Him!" The Huffington Post front page read, "Dead." Around the country, Americans gathered around televisions to digest the news - the article said.

Finally, Obama's confirmation arrived at 11:35 pm.

As the Huffington Post noted, hours before the New York Times or other newspapers hit the streets Monday, the news filtered out over a variety of media platforms. On Facebook, users described where they first heard the Bin Laden news, citing Twitter, major broadcast and cable networks or via their iPhones.

Reflections about the role Twitter played in this story appeared very soon after the announcement, contributing to the debate on challenges faced by old and new media.

Business Insider noted that Twitter just had its CNN moment, comparing the way the news was diffused with the popularity that CNN gained during the Gulf war in 1990. After Twitter broke the news, the rest of the media didn't "officially" confirm it until 20 minutes later, the article noted, and by that time, the Twitter stream had already moved from rumour to fact to strange observations to criticism of Fox News for having misspelled Bin Laden's name, spelling Obama instead of Osama.

Mashable took a poll to find out how people heard about Bin Laden's death. USA Today's Technology Live reported that at the time of that writing, 43% of the 6,568 respondents had found out via Twitter. Nearly 18% learned from Facebook, while 14% saw the news on TV.

The news dominated of course also the major front newspapers pages and Poynter collected some of those.

As soon as the news appeared, conjectures, doubts, suspects, uncertainties and second guesses arise about the truthfulness of the death.

Fake and allegedly fake - as MSNBC reported - pictures of Bin Laden's corpse circulated online and the news that Bin Laden's body would probably be buried at sea - according to ABC News - started conjectures over whether he is really dead or not.

Interestingly, soon emerged the news that the first to tweet or actually to livetweet the US raid on Bin Laden was an IT consultant in Pakistan.

As the Guardian reported, Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbotabad, about 250m from Bin Laden's compound, tweeted about a rare event happening - helicopter hovering overhead at 1 am local time.

The realisation about what happened hit him at about 10am local time, the article said.

"Uh no, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it", he tweeted.

Sources: BBC News, Tech Crunch, Media Decoder, Twitter, Huffington Post, Business Insider, ABC News, MSNBC, Mashable, Technology Live, Poynter, Guardia



Federica Cherubini


2011-05-02 15:56

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

© 2015 WAN-IFRA - World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Footer Navigation