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Twitter broke Bin Laden news before TV or the President

barack_obama_speech_33.jpgAt first, I thought it was a Twitter hoax.

But news that President Obama had quickly scheduled a 10:30 p.m. announcement to the nation crackled across Twitter the speed normally reserved for Charlie Sheen updates and Justin Bieber sightings, courtesy of a tweet from the White House communications director himself. 

As more established reporters began passing along the news, belief in the report grew; some jokesters speculated it was time for the president to disclose that an asteroid was going to decimate earth. Others noted the irony of President Obama pre-empting the final moments of vociferous critic Donald Trump's unscripted NBC show, Celebrity Apprentice.

But a tweet from CNN highlighted that the subject would be a national security matter. And minutes later, a CBS News producer tweeted that Osama Bin Laden was dead, and the U.S. had the body.

All this occurred before the broadcast networks had broken into their regularly scheduled shows for the president's address. On the cable newschannels, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer was hinting that he knew something he was uncomfortable disclosing, while an MSNBC anchor came close to revealing the news, but also held back.

In the same way details of Michael Jackson's death moved on Twitter and Facebook ahead of even official TV reports, Twitter jumped ahead on news of Bin Laden's killing. These days, if you want to hear important news first, it pays to follow a wide array of Twitter feeds and keep them close in breaking news situations.

On TV, some news anchors seemed airlifted in from their beds, as NBC's David Gregory led the early parts of the network's coverage from a Washington D.C. studio lit so sparsely it looked like he was standing at a campfire. Correspondents appeared on all channels with ties askew and hair not quite in place; testament to how quickly they were mobilized (on CBS, foreign correspondent Lara Logan was providing expert commentary hours after viewers saw a heartbreaking 60 Minutes report on her sexual assault in Egypt).

osama-bin-laden-2001.jpgAfter the president's official announcement, senior administration officials confirmed that the operation to take Bin Lader occurred today, implemented by Navy SEALS.

Bin Laden was inside a massive, $1-million compound, eight times larger that the surrounding homes near Islamabad. The complex had two security gates, 18-feet high walls topped with barbed wire and no Internet or telephone service. When intelligence officials heard Bin Laden might be in hiding in the area back in August, they figured such a complex would be perfect for hiding a man like him.

Officials were stingy with some details, declining to say exactly how the operation to take Bin Laden proceeded. they did admit he tried to resist the forces, was shot dead during the attack and his body would be handled in accordance with Islamic law. 

Later tweets noted that today's operation came on the 8th anniversary of George W. Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" press conference and on the same day news was leaking that Trump was planning to annouce a run for president after Celebrity Apprentice ended.

Perhaps God has a fine-tuned sense of irony, after all.

Other notable tweets:

Drew Carey: Crazy how the world just went from b&w to technicolor. Ding dong #Osama's dead.

Jim Carrey: Wow! They killed the Boogieman! I felt something was in the air tonight! Bin Laden era over! S'next? ?;^•

Colin Hanks: When you run out of the house to join the Osama is dead rally in DC, when does grabbing the beach ball cross your mind as a good thing?

Piers Morgan: Far too early to say, as some commentators are, that War on Terror is now 'over'. It's not.

(Modern Family creator) Steve Levitan: Thinking of (former Frasier co-workers and 9/11 victims) David & Lynn Angell tonight.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux: Obama got Osama






[Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 10:14am]


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