Twitter’s DIY Journalism

Does this mean the beginning of the end of journalism as we know it? Or the start of a new revolution?

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I first realized that our democracy had kicked into another gear last September, when in the middle of President Barack Obama’s speech rallying Congress to pass a health care bill, someone in the U.S. Capitol chamber screamed, “YOU LIE!”

Even Obama looked a bit shaken, as I was, sitting in my living room, one eye on CNN, and the other eye on my Twitter feed.

On Twitter, within seconds, someone had produced a name of the heckler. Just as quickly, someone else listed his office phone number and Web site, which quickly crashed. Minutes later, a link was produced to a site raising money for the alleged heckler’s political opponent. Then came the links to old articles of the alleged heckler dissing the black daughter of Sen. Strom Thurmond. By the end of the night, thousands of dollars were raised in a South Carolina congressional race.

At the end of the speech, a CNN anchor announced she believed they could identify the heckler, but they were double-checking to make sure before airing his name.

Watching it all unfold, I felt both hopelessly uninformed and over-informed at the same time. What if it wasn’t actually Rep. Joe Wilson, but someone else, who made the rude break in decorum? And what if Joe Wilson’s Congressional opponent turned out to be a moron of the Blago ilk? What do any of those people donating money on the Net know about the politics of Aiken County, S.C., anyways?