Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Russia, the Web, and the Subway Bombings

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, March 31 2010

Credit: abstract 2001

In the hours after a pair of horrific subway bombings in Moscow left 39 people dead and many more wounded, Russian state-owned television played cooking shows and makeover programs, writes Time's Carl Schreck. Television officials pled audience -- that only uninterested housewives would be home at that hour -- and appropriateness, arguing that given that the two attacks were designed to incite terror, airing footage of the attacks in the immediate aftermath would only help their violent cause. And so, writes Alexey Sidorenko on Global Voices, people turned to the web:

Bloggers were among the first to spread the word about the tragic event, becoming the only stable media while major news websites stopped responding due to high traffic and TV channels were too slow to prepare any material on time. As Twitter user Krassnova noticed [RUS], Twitter hashtag #metro29 [RUS, EN] had 40 tweets per second while TV channels managed to prepare just 4 stories. In less than a couple of hours a website metro29.ru has been installed to cover the events

In the comments on Sidorenko's post, there's the beginnings of a fascinating debate about whether the social media response to the bombings added much to the situation. Here's a taste:

Of course there are no shortage of comments and tweets. But the reality is, *the same few pictures which don’t tell anything but an official narrative* are being regurgitated everywhere, and little but *the official narrative* is being reiterated.

...

The way this story has unfolded has really been an epiphany for me, despite my huge belief in the power of citizens’ media: I’m seeing that in a country where the state controls the media, and where the society is heavily discouraged from independent coverage (killings of journalists and lawyers, shut down of websites), social media can’t magically compensate just by providing a more lively and quick stream of “news” and commentary. Social media is only as good as the society that can wield it.

"Social media is only as good as the society that can wield it," is provocative, but there's an argument to be made for the idea that getting the hang of citizen reporting takes practice. It may well get better over time, but it might be a bumpy journey. There's also an argument to be made that, no matter how you slice it, a subway bombing in Moscow is news, and that a "media" that fails to convey to its audience the very fact that it happened isn't much deserving of the name.

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Net Effects

Ballooning digital campaign teams; early registration deadlines kept millions of people from voting in 2012; love letters to Obamacare; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Data-Driven

Get to know Clinton's digital team even better; Ted Cruz election announcement-related fundraising offers peak into the coming data-driven campaign arms race; New York City launches online community engagement pilot program called IdeaScale; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Too Much Information

Will Facebook become the Walmart of News?; Hillary Clinton's digital team; how easy it is to get your hands on 4.6 million license plate scans; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Firsts

Political reporters use Yik Yak to pep up stories about Ted Cruz's campaign announcement; The New York Times, Buzzfeed and National Geographic may agree to let Facebook host their news on its servers; Google fiber users to soon get targeted television ads; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Cowed

TedCruz.com for president; Meerkat fever; who does Facebook work for (probably not you); Medium, "the billionaire's typewriter"; and much, much more. GO

More