This is one of the things I love about social media — the way critical information or breaking news percolates to the top. People often ask me how I can follow so many different people and streams. Part of what makes it possible is not even trying to actually read everything by everyone, and trusting that the really important items and concepts will be repeated. Here is a prime example.
The #OccupyWallStreet hashtag has been all over my Twitter stream. In the time it took me to write 3 sentences there were 80 new tweets. But I found it hard to tell if it was just people with a strong political agenda, or if it was something really important. I was hesitant to retweet what I was seeing on Twitter because it was coming from people I don't know as well. All those questions and concerns went away when I checked Facebook. My Facebook stream is much more selective than my Twitter stream, and most of the people I actually do know in real life. When I see an entire screen full, literally, of several different items all on the same topic that is a clear indication that something pretty important is going on. The diversity of the people mentioning it is also an indicator of how wide spread the issue is. When an issue appears in all my social media spaces, it is important. When it appears in comments from a variety of different intellectual or political communities, it is important. When there is a unity of message across a wide diversity of communities, it is important. In this screenshot you see posts from a science librarian, a poet, an activist, and a digital media geek.
Another significant aspect of this is that the claim is that the mainstream news, the United States government, and Twitter itself, is suppressing the extent and traumas of the Wall Street protests. In response, the word of mouth communities in social media are aggressively spreading the news, taking the responsibility upon themselves for doing the job they believe should be done by the professional media. I don't know how true that is, but I did a quick spot check of Google News. The trending "Top Stories" for the USA include:
– Senate Reaches Deal to Avert Government Shutdown
– Boeing Delivers First 787 Dreamliner
– Extent of Damage to the Washington Monument to be Revealed
– Samsung Unveils Galaxy Tab 8.9 Tablet
– Saudi Arabia: A Trial for Woman Who Drove
– Coffee May Help Women Lower Depression Risk
Given the enormous outcry in the social media spaces, at least 5 of those 6 articles seem like news filler in comparison.
The next step? I did an actual search in Google News looking explicitly for articles on Wall Street, figuring the protest and it's related activities would pop to the top. Here are the top ten titles, with their country of origin.
1. Occupy Wall Street: 'Pepper-spray' officer named in Bush protest claim (UK)
2. Wall Street Rebounds on Europe Hopes (US)
3. US politics live blog: Occupy Wall Street protests, spending bill (UK)
4. Wall Street protestors defy police for 9th day (Malaysia)
5. Chris Hedges Occupies Wall Street (US, "A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion")
6. Wall Street: Stocks stand still; gold falls again (US)
7. Wall Street's Wrong About These Stocks (US)
8. Insight: Last year's golden boy, CFTC boss under siege (Reuters)
9. Wall Street Persisting With Tentative Optimism (US, finance)
10. Wall Street Beat; 7 Top Movers in Monday Trade (US, finance)
By now, I'm somewhat annoyed, and still seeking even informal evidence to counter the idea that there is censorship of sorts going on in the home of free speech. I do a more explicit search for "wall street protest". Here are the names of the news sources for the top ten articles listed when I did my search tonight.
2. Police News
3. Wesleyan Argus
5. CNN (Blog)
6. New York Times (Blog)
8. Christian Post
10. CNN (blog)
You might be happy to see that at least CNN and NYT blogged about it, even if both of the CNN pieces were citing the same interview with Michael Moore. For comparison, let's look at a Google News search on the top news story of the day – the bipartisan agreement to avoid the government shutdown. The sources for the top ten articles on that include: New York Times, AFP, Washington Post, W*USA9, National Journal, Mother Jones, Fox News, WWL, The Atlantic, and Neon Tommy.
Now ask, which one of those lists looks like REAL news coverage? Where do you get your news? Do you include social media?