Live Streams and Social Media Beat Networks To Ferguson

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Last night much of the social media world had their eyes firmly fixed on a single live stream. The footage was being broadcast from the town of Ferguson, Missouri where the state police were engaged in a massive crackdown against protesters. The live broadcast rolled despite police orders to vacate the scene capturing powerful images of police in full riot gear launching tear gas and firing rubber bullets to disperse an apparently peaceful protest against the police shooting of an unarmed teenagers named Michael Brown. The footage was made all the more remarkable by the fact that it wasn’t being carried on any major network.

Mainstream media has been slow to cover the events unfolding in Ferguson, leaving live streamers and citizen journalists to relay events to the outside world. While major networks made only glancing references to the protests or the resulting militarized crackdown by the state police, social media was alive with commentary. The hashtag #Ferguson trended nationwide on Twitter as witnesses to the violence tweeted pictures and others outside the immediate line of fire shared  their own commentary. Many users compared the protest and subsequent police violence to similar events that have recently unfolded in Egypt, Thailand and the Middle East.

Despite a massive response from concerned citizens via Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, public officials remained uncharacteristically quiet along with major news outlets. Thousands of tweets demanding a response from the White House and the Missouri State House were met with silence. As of this hour, the president has yet to make a statement. Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, waited until after 1 a.m. to address the events in Ferguson via his Twitter account.

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In the age of social media and online video, we increasingly rely on non-professional citizen journalists to report less palatable news. This is one of the most recent cases in which coverage by web journalists far outstripped that of professional news outlets.

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