The protests that have erupted in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of Michael’s Brown’s shooting by the police have opened another conversation about the role of social media during fast breaking news events.
David Carr, media and culture columnist for the New York Times, sees a similarity to the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, when police made it difficult for the media to cover the events by pushing cameras out of the area. In that instance, social media became a large part of the eyes and ears of the media. Ferguson is being covered in much the same way, with images of militarized police responding to protesters going viral.
With the evolution of smartphone technology, Carr points to how the delivery of video and pictures has become more discreet than ever:
“Walking around with a camera is like walking around with an 800 pound pencil: you can be a target for either the police or the protesters.” Meanwhile, with a smartphone, one can blend into the crowd and simply record events.
Newsrooms have also been leaning heavily towards Twitter as opposed to other social networks, especially during fast moving events.
A major reason why, Carr argues, is that Twitter is a light piece of infrastructure that can carry info from other platforms, such as embedded photos and short videos, quickly and easily.