While Osama bin Laden had arguably become more of a figure head in the time since the September 11th attacks, his ultimate demise still constituted a major news story. So where did most of the world first hear about this? ABC correspondent Jeremy Hubbard made on online statement saying “Wow. If the rumor is true, President Obama is about to make one HELL of a statement.” prompting some speculation. The major news stations alerted the public that Obama had announced he would deliver a statement at a highly unusual time, suggesting he would be saying something of high importance. News anchors who had heard rumors coyly hinted at what the news would be without giving it away. The first person to deliver the news was not Obama, nor was it a cable news channel. It was not the work of anyone typically regarded as a journalist at all. Rather, they heard it on Twitter. Keith Urban, chief of staff for former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld tweeted “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” minutes before news stations announced it.
It should be distressing to anyone in legacy media that a free tweet by one individual could beat them on such a major scoop, even if only by a matter of minutes. If the combined forces of financed news organizations with large veteran staffs cannot beat a lone tweeter on a story of such import, then what hope do they still have of ever being the ones to break news again? At that rate, their relevance amongst the increasing numbers of news consumers savvy enough to utilize Twitter or even the Internet at large should, deservedly, diminish. In a fast paced modern digital environment, “Hey, we ran it briefly after the fact!” is not a valid defense. Legacy media provides a greater depth of coverage for now, but it seems evident from this scenario that they have lost the speed arms race.