How Did You Hear About Osama? I Bet It Wasn’t On TV...

Melanie Gross
May 7, 2011
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Internet, Twitter

The way we consume media has changed drastically over the last few years. Instead of watching the nightly news, we are getting news real-time. And the news we get is no longer filtered by big media companies. We’re just as likely to get the news from a person who sees it happen as we are from the TV reporter. If you need proof of the way news consumption is changing, look at the death of Osama bin Laden.

More and more, people are turning to social media both to see what’s happening in the world and to get commentary on it. Because it is real-time, you can often get the news faster from Twitter than you can by waiting for the 6:00 news, your daily newspaper or even by turning to your local 24-hour news station. There may be a story trending on Twitter before the media even hear about it.

Twitter set traffic records the night Osama was killed. From 10:45 to 02:20 ET on May 2, there were an average of 3000 tweets per second about Osama. The traffic peaked when President Obama addressed the American public with around 5100 tweets per second. This was not a traffic record in terms of numbers, but it is a record in terms of sustained volume of traffic. While people may have been watching the speech on TV, they were clearly discussing what they heard as well.

Perhaps the most interesting role played by social media in the way we get news now is the local, eye-witness view. Never before have we been able to hear what’s happening from someone who is being directly impacted by what’s going on, in real time. Videos of the Japanese tsunami were on YouTube hours after the event. These were taken by local people, not reporters paid by the big networks.

This is why it’s so interesting to read the Twitter feed of 33 year old Sohaib Athar, a computer programmer living in Abbottabad. Being a techy, of course when the planes started flying over, he tweeted about it. By the time it became clear what was going on, he’d acquired quite a following. As he says himself, he’s the person that live blogged the death of Osama bin Laden without knowing about it. He and maybe one or two others are the eye-witness view of Osama’s death that would not have been possible even a few years ago.

Now, what do the powers that be think of the new way we get and talk about our news? Well, they seem to be using the social networks as much as we are. They’re using them to get a pulse on public opinion. Often, you’ll even get a report on what’s being said on the Twitter feed alongside the reporter’s coverage. As soon as Athar realized what he was blogging, he knew that the media want to know all about it. He had media contacting him even before it became clear what he was blogging. Now, he himself is part of the story.

What do the newsmakers think? Well, the smart ones have jumped on board. Everyone from the Pope to the Queen has a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel. Have you checked out the White House Flickr feed? There are numerous pictures posted of the President in meetings concerning the Osama raid.

Social networks have changed the way we get and interact with the major news of the day. Long, long gone are the days when we sit down to watch the 6:00 news to find out what’s going on in our world. Now, our news is real-time and always somehow close to home. It’s one effect of the new global village, I suppose. Looking at what happened online surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden highlights the change in thinking as news consumption gets less centralized and more personal.

So, where were you when you heard about Osama bin Laden? How did you hear? Did you run to the TV or to Twitter? Did you have both going? How do you get your news nowadays?


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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

    1. E. Fromme said on September 29, 2023 at 1:32 pm

      EMRE ÇITAK posts are useless because they are fraught with inaccuracies and are irrelevant.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

    1. Howard Allan Pearce Jones said on October 1, 2023 at 4:28 am

      Rreedom of Association is one of our most important rights. Some people think it’s Freedom, but no, I say Rreedom is far more important. There are many STATE-MANDATED associations that save jobs, that’s right MANDATED. I can’t name any of them, but rest assured they are bad, because saving jobs are bad, and people having jobs leads to dictatorship!!! Anyone who disagrees is too radical for Ghacks maybe, because I’m not sure.

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

  9. sean conner said on September 27, 2023 at 6:21 am
  10. Sherry Grant said on September 29, 2023 at 7:47 pm

    What does this article about Musk/Tesla have to do with computing, devices, phones?
    More irelevant filler.

  11. Anonymous said on September 29, 2023 at 8:47 pm

    yeah sure… they are always the victims and it is only against them ????

    Believe them 100% and never question anything. This lawsuit sounds like the type you heard when people were eating batteries.

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