Friday, July 08, 2005

Blogs and Wikipedia cover London's bombings: History's New First Draft - Newsweek World News - MSNBC.com

History's New First Draft - Newsweek World News - MSNBC.com
The London bombings seen through the eyes of the bloggers.


Technorati.com, a site that monitors what is going on in the world of blogs, created a page to track the latest news, conversation and firsthand reports from London. The site reports that "As of 4:30 p.m. on July 7, 2005, Technorati measured a 30 percent increase in blog posting over the normal level. And nine out of 10 Top Searches were about the bombings." Sean Bonner, the founder of metroblogging.com, may be a little biased when it comes to blogs, but in an Internet Relay Chat on Thursday he marveled at the quality of real-time information in the blogosphere. “It's insane how many people are online looking to blogs for info. Insane in a good way, mind you,” he writes. “Blogs are quicker than the BBC, arguably better, in some cases.” To be fair, the BBC must fact-check and edit its content before publishing anything online and it did post a page of first-person accounts to its Web site. And the blog of the British newspaper the Guardian was a truly excellent resource for people throughout the day.

But perhaps the biggest story on Thursday was Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that Internet users around the world freely add to and edit. Yesterday’s entry on the London bombings was amended, edited and updated by hundreds of readers no fewer than 2,800 times throughout the day. “It’s very different than what you get on CNN,” explains Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. “You get background. On TV you see images of blown-up buses, but you don’t have information on the different tube stops.” The entry has photographs, detailed timelines, contact numbers, a complete translated statement by the jihadist group claiming responsibility for the attacks and links to other Wikipedia entries offering context on everything from the London Underground to British Summer Time.

What happened Thursday is not done happening yet, nor will it be for a very long time. But one lesson that may already be gleaned is this: it is no longer newspapers, as the old maxim goes, that write the first draft of history. Cable news may offer instant images, but it has always been the role of the written word, meaning newspapers, to capture fleeting events and distill them into historical record. But by the time the first editions of print newspapers hit newsstands Friday morning, citizen journalists had already written that first draft, and in some respects the second and third draft, online. Factoring in Wikipedia’s coverage of Thursday’s terror, you might even say today’s papers are finally getting around to offering history’s 2,801st draft.

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