Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming to a phone near you: Six examples of how social media took the starring role in the news

By Gill Moodie

Until Twitter came along and blew the lid off news coverage of the Iranian elections last year, many of us were scratching our heads wondering just how social media could help journalism be more interesting.

Sure, Facebook helped you market a story to your buddies and you could pick up a story or two on Twitter, but what else was there? Then the Iranians, armed with cellphones, beat the pants off the international news organisations covering the June protests in Tehran and we all sat up and took notice.

In South Africa, social media also steals the spotlight from traditional media from time-to-time. Here are my favourite examples:

1. Viral sensation

When AWB leader Andre Visagie stormed out of a live panel discussion this month, it went viral in a big way with every news organisation, blogger and his dog embedding it. At last count just one iteration of the clip had had 267 000 hits on YouTube and the hilarious “Don’t Touch me on my Studio” clip was also quickly remixed into a number of spoof vids. On the very same day ANC Youth League president Julius Malema threw BBC hack Jonah Fisher out of a press conference – another a big hit – but the prize for enduring appeal must surely go to parliament’s finance portfolio committee chairman, Nhlanhla Nene, who vanished behind a desk after his chair collapsed on live TV in 2008. It was inevitable that someone at the SABC would release the video on YouTube and Zoopy. Word got around on Facebook and very soon the rather un-amused Nene was an internet celebrity. Even venerable institutions such as the BBC covered it (without being able to resist embedding the vid themselves, of course).

Today one version of the Nene clip has had more than 3.1-million views on YouTube. We, of course, can’t resist putting it up again: [...]

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