Did someone known as BitchslappedByLogic do a better job than the mainstream media of covering a Toronto shooting that left 2 dead and 24 wounded after a street party turned violent on Monday night?
Below is an excerpt from BitchslappedByLogic's post about the shooting on Reddit, a social news website founded in 2005. It is a bluntly articulated jigsaw puzzle of linked tweets (or screenshots of tweets in cases where the original posts have been removed) that pieces together the night's violent events, and their potential ramifications in the community.
Below that is an excerpt from coverage of the shooting by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) - Canada's national public television and radio broadcaster, created in 1936.
Let us compare.
Random portraits of the situation gleaned from twitter.
"This person was shot. As was this person. This person was also shot -- twice. This person was also shot, according to this tweet. This may be her in recovery, though I can't be sure. It is, in any case, someone recovering from a gunshot wound.
This woman was shot and apparently killed. Her and her boyfriend were celebrating a 4 month anniversary. I'm confident enough to say that she is the Shyanne who many locals on twitter are talking about, based on comparing pictures from her account to those posted by others. She was apparently well-connected. One tweetersaid that "This is Shyanne's people we're talking about. Now it's gonna be war"[...]
This guy is implying that there will be more violence in the future. The shooters "touched the wrong people". "This isn't over". More of the same sentiment from this girl. And this woman, who says "there is gonna be war". We should expect an "outrageous reaction", because there will be a "heavy domino effect". As another guy says, "Mandem aren't gonna let this slide easy." ('Mandem' = slang term for a collection of thugs.)
I fear for this community's future."
Police worried Toronto shooting will spur retaliation
Teenage girl, aspiring police officer killed, 23 others wounded
"Toronto police are concerned about possible retaliation in the wake of one of the worst incidents of gun violence in the city’s history, which left two people dead and another 23 wounded.
Shooting erupted at a block party in a Scarborough neighbourhood on Monday night, which police believe was attended by at least 100 people. The shooting left crowds of people fleeing the neighbourhood near Morningside Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East, as police arrived at the scene.
Police soon determined that two people were dead and nearly two dozen others were wounded in the spray of bullets. One person was trampled as panicked partygoers fled the scene.
Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson identified the deceased during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon as Joshua Yasay, 23, of Ajax, Ont., and Shyanne Charles, 14, of Toronto.
It is not clear if gangs were involved in the shootings, but Chief Bill Blair said police are investigating that possibility."
In response to BitchslappedByLogic's post, several Redditors, including a student at Toronto's selective journalism programme at Ryerson University, contrasted his approach with that of the mainstream media:
Amazing. I'm a Ryerson Journalism student and I find this reporting to be incredibly in-depth, even though it revolves around Twitter. Are you a journalist?
Not a professional journo, nope. Just a guy who thinks mainstream media coverage of almost everything is woefully inadequate. I'm always digging through user-driven media sites during 'news events', just figured I'd post my findings publicly this time. No claims to accuracy or anything, just relaying what I find.
Formal news orgs generally have to do a lot of verification before reporting on theories - there's more responsibility and liability. That's the difference.
I get that, and think it's a serious limitation to the medium. Not that it renders the medium useless, just, as I said, inadequate.
I am a Toronto native living abroad, and I first learned of Monday's shooting through Mathew Ingram's piece for GigaOM entitled "Twitter, Reddit, and the newsroom of the future." I immediately clicked on the Reddit link in an attempt to understand what had happened; despite having spent my first seventeen years in Toronto, I was left with little clarity. Next, I read the CBC story; it all made sense. Finally, I went back to Reddit; the contrast was stark.
Does one source do a better job than the other of telling a coherent story?
Yes - the CBC.
The public broadcaster's coverage of Monday's violent events is a good example of a traditional media organisation exploiting new media tools: it includes text, images, video, a map of where the shooting took place, and a Storify compiling tweets by citizens and the police.
Does the Reddit account offer important nuances that the CBC's overlooks?
Yes - several.
Most notable is the difference in perspective. Juxtaposed to the candid words and images that victims and eyewitnesses posted on their own Twitter accounts during and after the events, the quotes that the CBC's journalists managed to gather from those bystanders who were willing to speak on record fall flat. This bird's eye view approach to reporting comes off as a still-life painted from a safe distance.
What it lacks in lucidity, BitchslappedByLogic's patchwork of interwoven first-hand accounts makes up for in perspective. The tweets offer a three-dimensional, street-view perspective on the violent events, from worried build-up to threatened fallout, articulated in local slang, and with a soundtrack of local music. The bare bones presentation allows the bone-chilling reality of this situation to seep in to the remote reader's consciousness.
As Mathew Ingram of GigaOM pointed out:
"Imagine how much better the CBC story could have been if it had made use of some of the background and linking practices that you see in the Reddit post, or if the two had worked together, and you get some idea of what the newsroom of the future looks like."
To the credit of traditional news organisations, many were quick to notice the Redditor's handiwork. As Macleans magazine' Jesse Brown noticed, several even reached out to tweeters in an attempt to gather quotes:
All in all, the mainstream media are doing a very good job of integrating the possibilities afforded by new media into their coverage of breaking news events.
But sometimes they are helped along by a quick slap from logic.