Breaking news - social versus mainstream

It took the traditional news wires at least 24 hours to catch up with the coverage of the arrest of two youth movement leaders in Azerbaijan.

By that time dozens of blogs had been updated and probably thousands of tweets sent. The news was everywhere; everywhere except on the mainstream media.

When the news wires arrived they were reminders of yesterday's news. Probably not too late for the media that feeds off and reproduces the wires, but too late for those who want news as it happens.

I had only typed 'Baku' and 'Azerbaijan' into the search tool in my TweetDeck because I am travelling there next month to run a four day course on journalism and social networking.

As always, I wanted to do my homework. I wanted to find out what people are tweeting about, find some useful profile links to people I might learn from, and be offered some links to blogs that might be worth bookmarking.

It's part of my new routine when visiting another country; I turn to Twitter and Wikipedia.

In the past I would visit a few bookmarked sites for my research, but I have now moved to social-media-based research because it's dynamic and takes me deeper.

Social network research is about getting to know the people who are in the know, rather than searching online for archived documents that may be out of date.

And the point was underlined this weekend by the search results that came up as I prepared for my second trip to Azerbaijan.

News as it happens

Using the search facility in TweetDeck I set up columns for Baku and Azerbaijan.

Baku tweetsThe column filled with a series of rapidly updating tweets about two so-called youth leaders and bloggers arrested after an alleged skirmish in a Baku restaurant and held for two months pre-trial.

Links took me through to several well-written blogs.

Twitter profiles connected me with a number of concerned and helpful individuals, both on the ground and overseas.

Within minutes my research turned to writing and I, too, put together a short piece to highlight the case of Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli.

But I was already a day behind the event, with bloggers such as Ali S. Novruzov, who wrote 'Beaten activists sentenced for two months while investigation goes on', already covering the story in depth for the Frontline Club blog, and Onnik Krikorian with his piece, 'Youth activist, prominent blogger imprisoned after trial behind closed doors' doing the same for Global Voices.

The Oner Blog was keeping people updated in Azerbaijani. There were others, too many to mention here, keeping followers informed about the developing story.

But, because I have different followers on Media Helping Media, and because I have different followers on Twitter @helpingmedia and @mediaideas, I decided it was worth putting together a short piece to highlight the plight of the two and link to what had already been written.

Yesterday's news and news reminders

That was all going on during Friday and Saturday. I couldn't find a word about the story on traditional mainstream media.

More than 24 hours later the wires caught up. First AFP filed a piece 'Bloggers held on hooliganism charges in Azerbaijan: rights group' and then Reuters 'Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case'.

Granted, Reuters added an interesting new angle; that BP, who employe one of the arrested men, was pushing for his release.

Both good pieces again re-tweeted and spread virally and quickly, but at least 24-hours behind.

Glad I didn't wait for the wires or traditional, mainstream media to catch up. If I had, 24 hours would have been lost and I would have been reading yesterday's news. 

David BrewerThe author of this piece, David Brewer, is a journalist and media strategy consultant who founded Media Helping Media, handing the site over to Fojo in early 2018. David has worked as a journalist and manager in print, broadcast and online. He has spent many years delivering journalism training and media consultancy services worldwide.

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