Tweeting Bin Laden: Have US Journalists Become Citizen Reporters?

This post is part of our special coverage The Death of Osama Bin Laden.

When news of Osama Bin Laden's death broke on May 2, 2011, journalists in the United States (US) were tweeting and using social media just like other citizens to report their feelings and what they saw on the streets and even airplanes. It marks an interesting contrast to how 9/11 itself was reported in 2001, when social media was still only a nascent technology, especially in the world of professional journalism. Have journalists finally become citizen reporters?

Ed Henry from CNN tweeted from celebrations in front of the White House in Washington D.C.:

@edhenrycnn: the cheers of joy behind me outside WH making me want to cry. wow. #binladen

Journalist and photographer Thomas Cain, from national community news company Main Street Connect tweeted the moment he landed at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on May 2:

@ThomasCain: Just landed in JFK and the pilot came over speakers to inform us of bin laden's death. The whole plane just erupted in applause!

Photo: Passengers in the baggage claim area of JFK glued to O... on Twitpic

@ThomasCain: Photo: Passengers in the baggage claim area of JFK glued to Obama's speech about Bin Laden's death.

Jim Forman from the KING 5 Night Team in Western Washington also tweeted an airplane experience:

@jimformanKING5: 9/11 widow on my flight. In tears. Comforted by entire cabin. Life altering event to see.

@jimformanKING5: For my bosses. The lovely lady who lost her husband has declined to be on tv tonight lovely mother of two. From me she gets space.

Not all experiences in US airports were jubilant, as security levels were raised:

@tmsruge: OBL's death = extra level of security at checkin.. By “level” I mean 7 extra check points within 100ft radius + extra rude passport stamper

In New York at the “Ground Zero” site of the former World Trade Center, journalists reported on jubilant crowds.

New York Times social media editor, Lexi Mainland tweeted:

@lexinyt: Just arrived at ground zero, where sirens are blaring and clapping and cheers are erupting.

@lexinyt: The guys whose pic I just tweeted experienced 9/11 in NYC on their first day of high school, in Manhattan.

Matthew Bishop, the New York bureau chief of The Economist also tweeted from here:

@mattbish: Man with vuvuzela is here, as are hundreds of citizen journalists!

@mattbish: I keep looking up and remembering those people falling from the sky right where I am standing. The memory is still raw

Writer and New York Times employee Jennifer Mascia said:

@jennifermascia: Seriously cannot believe how young this crowd is. 9/11 must have been the defining moment of their childhood.

On the following morning in New York, Jeff Jarvis, an early blogger and one of the first journalists to report on the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, retraced his steps to Ground Zero:

@jeffjarvis: I've retraced my steps here on 9/11. I see an augmented reality from my memory over the city.

In his blog Buzz Machine, he wrote a moving reminiscence on how 9/11 defined both his career as a fierce advocate of citizen journalism, as well as the medium itself:

As soon as I saw the news, I turned by reflex to Twitter. Twitter is our Times Square on this victory day. A reporter asked me tonight whether this would be a defining moment for Twitter. Another one, I said. Today, our grand shared experience around news is no longer defined as all of us watching TV. Now, TV is in the background. Twitter is where many of us come to find out the news and share our thoughts and feelings.

This post is part of our special coverage The Death of Osama Bin Laden.

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