It was around 9 p.m. Sunday that I started reading on Twitter that a surprise presidential TV appearance was coming. I switched over to the news channels and saw that, indeed, they were preparing for a mysterious announcement.
Back on Twitter, I was searching for at least rumors on what the topic was, finally finding a retweet from Keith Urbahn, who had been Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's chief of staff in the Bush administration. Around 9:25, he tweeted, "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn."
It began a flurry of tweets about Bin Laden's demise, while the news channels -- most ostentatiously CNN -- refrained from speculating (although it appears anchor Wolf Blitzer knew what was going on.)
I tweeted my own assessment of the "Twitter buzz" that Bin Laden was dead, and finally the TV news outlets started their on-air quoting of sources on the story, especially as the planned presidential statement kept getting pushed back.
In short, if you were reading Twitter, you had a far better chance to be plugged into the headline of Bin Laden's death before anybody else. I stress the word "headline," because at 140 characters, there's not much else.
I think it's safe to see that breaking news now breaks on Twitter before it does anywhere else.
That's not a universal opinion, although it's a widespread one. One noted opposing viewpoint comes from Simon Dumenco, Milwaukee Magazine veteran and media writer for Ad Age. He calls it "total nonsense" pushed by mainstream media bashers. He cites further Urbahn tweets that show he wasn't convinced by the unconfirmed report that he passed along.
He writes, "I can guarantee you that the vast majority of links being shared on Twitter about bin Laden's death point to mainstream media reports -- specifically reports from a handful of the most credible, dedicated news organizations on Earth, including the Guardian and The New York Times."
Of course Dumenco is correct -- and I rarely trust a news Tweet unless it links me to an actual report. But I can tell you that a lot of people heard about the death of Osama Bin Laden from Twitter a half hour before they heard it from Wolf Blitzer.
On this large a story, that's a sign of the growing power of Twitter.
A casualty of the big news: There's something satisfying in news coverage interrupting the conclusion of Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night a few days after his silly birther crusade was finally and totally debunked by the release of president's full birth certificate.
But there are fans of the show who didn't get to see who got the ax, and NBC has offered this video of the conclusion:
Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for OnMilwaukee.com. He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.
A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.
In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at OnMilwaukee.com.
When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.