Twitter ahead of news media in Greek riots
December 18th, 2008

(Thanks, Alec!)

It’s hardly news any more that demonstrations, riots, get out the vote campaigns are coordinated via social media. In other words…smart mobs. Here is an interesting perspective from a group of journalists who happened to have gathered in Athens during the recent violent manifestations.

At the onset of riots across Greece, we – nearly 500 journalists, think tank people, media developers, foundation officials, human rights workers – gathered at the Global Forum for Media Development in Athens to talk about the state of the media and media development. All the while, the city smoldered during the day and at night, stores and cars were set on fire by rioters and looters.

The story is now familiar the world over. On Saturday, Dec. 6th, 2008, around 9 p.m., a policeman in Athens shot and killed a 15-year-old, sparking protests, riots and looting across many cities for days on end. The spontaneous protests and riots were organized largely by young people, who text-messaged and phoned each other, and who used social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

While we were holed up in a five-star hotel, discussing the crisis of the media profession – how citizen reporting has usurped professional reporting and how the old business model no longer holds, but new ones aren’t working very well either – the social crisis of our host country deepened. We, journalists, media developers and ombudsmen, all, were more or less out of the loop.

According to Pavlos Tsimas, a well-known Greek columnist and TV commentator who also attended the media forum: “Thousands of people were in the street protesting the murder of a boy whose name they didn’t know. Established media have not yet reported the event. TV stations came in a little late. The next day the newspapers did not carry words of the event with the exception of some sports papers that carried the story due to late night printing.”

That is, traditional news media were trying to play catch up in a world full of Twitterers and bloggers.

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