For the odd moments I can manage to think of something.

Crystallization of news online – Gil Scott-Heron

Around one thirty in the morning and a tweet turns up in my stream that says Gil Scott Heron has died.
I start playing his records on YouTube and watch the mill turn online.

Listening to The Revolution will not be televised.

Message after message runs through twitter in real time as the message takes hold and spreads, mostly Americans first and then on to other countries. Usually RIPs and a few questions, can anyone verify?

The news has changed. So I watch online streams to see who verifies.

Listening to Winter in America

Wikipedia has it an hour on.

Daily Swarm has it about the same time – linking back to the original tweet.

Listening to Message to the messengers

An hour passes and people mourn online while still asking – is it true? They retweet the original message – posted by Jamie Byng of Canongate publishing and Scott-Heron’s publisher.

Listening to The Bottle

NPR blog for The Record takes the story about an hour and a quarter on. Initially the story does not quote a source.

The tweets roll on and it’s noted that the “Revolution will not be televised” but that it is rolling on Twitter while people check mainstream news sites for an official update.

Listening to Did you hear what they said?

Shortly after – Pitchfork carries the story – relating it back to the publicist and promising further updates.

Listening to New York is Killing Me

Twitter rumour mill peaked at about 0230 and slows down as people look for a statement.

Boing Boing has it at nearly three am. Here’s where my tipping point tends to start. I read BB a lot and have respect for their tips and reporting. However, technically there is no concrete source.

Listening to Home is where the Hate is

Facebook pages saturate

Searches on Google under “news” are not showing any pages at five past three. It’s Gil Scott-Heron. You really do want to be sure before you write this up as a news source. No matter who crows about who was first on the web to break a story, trust is the currency. Trust and accuracy so, I am not surprised that the mainstream houses are not publishing yet. (No offence intended for the original tweet)

Listening to Angel Dust…Whitey’s on the Moon…

People swap You Tube videos and RIP messages at twenty five past three. Two hours passed since the initial tweet.

Listening to I’m New Here

After half past three and the main sources of publication are blogs and tweets. NPR News Music Twitter account too.

Consequence of sound has the news, written as a developing story. I wonder if people would rather know, even with a loss like this or if they are content with the possibility and then checking back later to see if it was right or not.

The Jerusalem Post is the first publication I can see taking the story at five to four. On Twitter people are replacing their avatars with images of Gil Scott-Heron.

CBS is now also running with the story, tracking the source back to the first tweet.

Time for met to head to bed – considering possible morning commitments. This was all written in draft up until now – I’ll see what the morning brings later….

Listening to Where did the night go?

I woke up to find that mainstream news outlets were all carrying the news of the passing of Gil Scott Heron. It’s a sad day, but in celebration of such a creative life, I spent the night listening to powerful and moving music.
What I learned from this experience?
I thought a lot about the topic. Had this been some spurious or comedic rumour, I think it would have been trending higher. The rate of respect online made the comments more cautious.

Also, though people were clearly grieving online, they showed a gentle humour, candour and respect. Cry when you’re born, sing when you’re dead.
I also saw what I already knew, that rumours online need to reach a critical mass, the rumour mill falls away while mainstream sources check the information and then the topic will flourish. Trust is the currency over content by a small amount.
The radio was playing this news when I got up for work. Still the details were not confirmed but how much do you really want to know about the normal passing of an artist?

One thing that I would ask you if you are reading this – at what point do you start to believe when you are reading things online?

3 Responses to “Crystallization of news online – Gil Scott-Heron”

  1. Annie Mole

    Great post. For some unknown reason I woke up stupidly early and have been online since 6am. Saw Gil Scott-Heron in trending topics on Twitter, but only when I saw Tweets from yourself and some other early birds who I follow that I clicked on the trending topic to see the news.

    “I think I’ll call it morning”

    • jemimahknight

      A sad loss, interesting to watch it unfold though. When people lose an appreciated artist, the rumours are more subtle and people want to be sure.

      It was nice to listen to so much amazing music while collating this one.

  2. Daniel

    I saw you saying you were waiting about a rumour last night.

    I love that you can find out instant news on twitter and it really frustrated me that when Michael Jackson died, BBC News was 2 hours behind every news service cos they could not get a second verification of his death and didn’t trust TMZ and celeb news networks in America. I discussed it on FB at the time. saying it frustrated me as a big fan of the BBC and people in America posted and said they would rather have checking of facts, than quick breaking news which is common there! That interested me! A lot of those very fast news networks of breaking news make mistakes and apologise / retract a lot! reporting someone’s death in error from twitter rumours is really offensive and sloppy! fact checking is slow and a skill but its better than random chance of a story being true!

    I always take deaths on twitter so carefully! I think I read them and then wait for a mainstream news service confirmation! I don’t trust “breakingnews” twitter type of accounts, I like proper confirmation from an organisation with journalists. There has been so many wrong twitter reported deaths! anyone can post anything and it could spread like wildfire instantly! people are lazy to verify!

    I used to follow someone on twitter who was a retired worker for a news organisation (not a presenter or journalist and it wasn’t the BBC). They posted a tweet with claims that all the newsrooms are talking about a major musical icon who has a major illness and could be dead within the month. I had big issues with that tweet. They made a public claim about someone who had not shared they were ill publicly and their family had not shared about it either. He was publishing rumours. I decided not to retweet or spread that tweet and keep it to myself. Its been about a year since that tweet and no other news about them in the media. I decided to unfollow the person. I would have no problems if it was a public story but that was just innuendo with no source!

    sad about Gil Scott Heron! RIP 😦


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