While Urbahn May Have Broke Bin Laden Death on Twitter, it was Void of Depth & Texture

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Obama on tv (2) Last night, I was due to have dinner with a client in Phoenix and she texted me letting me know it would have to wait until Obama’s speech to the nation – Osama bin Laden had been killed. A quick Google search brought up the news and a few minute walk brought me to a random hotel lobby where CNN was on, a handful of people muddled around waiting for him to start his 9+ minute speech.

When Obama finally came on in his polished blue jacket, white shirt and red tie with the composed and stately White House behind him, he said half way through his talk: “Justice has been done”. He also gave thanks to those who successfully carried out the action that brought Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader held largely responsible for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks nearly a decade ago, to his final death.

It was said that Bin Laden was killed in “deep” Pakistan and although the details we learned through the in-depth coverage on CNN, the news first emerged on Twitter.

A media alert went out shortly before 9:45 PM EST that the President would “address the nation” at 10:30, but a few minutes (five) before the speech began, Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for the former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted out this: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

President Obama confirmed the news only after a handful of tweets had already erupted in the tweetosphere, retweeting and responding to Urbahn’s message at a rapid pace.

When I checked status of Foursquare and Twitter when I arrived at the hotel, the news of Bin Laden’s death was already trending and remained trending well into the night.

Sure, Twitter is useful for breaking news, rapid fire reports (you see a fire on a city street, you can take a photo and tweet it out in real time before major news reporters from a so called “respectable” station or paper arrives), but a lot of people are still not on Twitter.

The same weekend of news of his death, we exhibited at the Ultimate Women’s Expo in Phoenix, where we had nearly 3,000 women (and some men) stop by the booth each day. Every time I asked whether someone was on Twitter, 98% of them said no whereas a significantly larger percentage were on Facebook. And, remember that we were in Phoenix, a major American city, not a small town in the midwest.

That said, news of Osama’s death originating on Twitter from the chief of staff for the former defense secretary brings some credibility to the table is compelling (in other words, it wasn’t from a 15 year old teenager).

Despite Urbahn’s tweet and several other successful cases of Twitter reporting the first “news” (also note the trend and success in the world of entertainment: Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Jackie Chan), people still refer to more authoritative sources for things of significance. Also truth be told, Twitter can’t go into depth about a story, and people want depth – the where, how, what, when and the intimate details of the WHY.

News of Osama’s death is so significant, not just because of who it is, but because there’s so much emotion connected to it around 9/11 and those who have lost loved ones or been impacted directly and indirectly by those tragic attacks.

It’s the in-depth emotional captures, the discussions on and offline and the impact of what his death means now and for the foreseeable future that people will want to dig their teeth into. Twitter can’t provide that.

Remember while I was not a fan of Twitter in the early days, these days I am and have several accounts which I’m active on daily. Yes, daily. Even when I went deep into the desert, I had tweets queued up and tweeted in real time with photos when I had coverage. I did however leave my mobile device behind when I went into the South American Amazon……tweeting from such raw nature seemed a bit too much and I knew it would take away from the experience of being present with the beauty around me, rather than add or compliment it, which it can do in other situations.

While Twitter may continue to prove to be a useful source of breaking news moving forward, I still want depth. And, my Twitter stream is crowded despite my attempts to keep lists and streams, which work fairly well most of the time. The problem is that even well known “tweeters” with traffic and influence and some people I WANT to follow send their Foursquare check-ins to their Twitter streams or talk about their child losing their first tooth. Really? Time for quality control or perhaps a  little of that Klout score needs to be taken away from that almighty Influence Number Ladder.

Below is the original speech that Obama gave the nation from the White House posted on YouTube, which give you something you could never get in 140 characters: the richness of the colors, the texture of his voice and the emotion surrounding the video, and the visuals of people parading outside the White House singing the National Anthem and carrying flags singing, waving and yes, celebrating.


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