How did you find out President Obama was holding a surprise news conference, or that it was to announce Osama bin Laden’s death? There’s a decent chance it wasn’t from a traditional media outlet but from someone you follow on Twitter or Facebook.
In fact, the news appears to have been broken by Twitter — or, more specifically, by Keith Urbahn, chief of staff to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who tweeted, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
Details on the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog: How the bin Laden Announcement Leaked Out.
Greg Sandoval of CNet News.com calls it “by far the weightiest story that Twitter has ever helped to break.”
The clues actually came even before Urbahn’s tweet. Someone in Abbottabad, Pakistan, live tweeted the raid as it was happening, without knowing the significance: “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty.” (Via Megan McCarthy as posted on TechMeme.)
Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land has an interesting comparison of Google’s reaction to 9/11 and to bin Laden’s death nearly a decade later — showing how much more responsive search engines have become to real-time events.
On the subject of Google, the Atlantic notes that someone has already pinpointed bin Laden’s hideout on Google Maps, down to the block, but Atlantic readers are questioning the accuracy in the comments. One red flag: It’s essentially the same spot that comes up when conducting a generic search for Abbottabad in Google Maps.
Legitimate or not, the location of the compound on Google Maps is already getting lots of “reviews” from Google Maps users, as if it were a hotel or restaurant. One of the best: “Ugh. Impossible to find!”