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Editorial: The speed of news

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On Friday afternoon a man entered the Rochester, NH campaign offices of Sen. Hillary Clinton. He had what he claimed was a bomb taped to his chest, and he demanded to speak to the senator and presidential candidate, holding the office’s occupants hostage while Clinton, who was in Washington, DC at the time, was summoned.

By the time this issue of YES! Weekly hits the streets the story will be old news, but it’s remarkable on a number of levels.

It is interesting, to be sure, that there is at least one American who believes that explosives are a workable alternative to a free election (he also, apparently, doesn’t believe in calling ahead to make sure his quarry is actually in-house). Bombs and hostages always make good copy; throw in a viable presidential candidate and you’ve got some real front-page, above-the-fold action.

And that’s where we come in.

As a media story, the Clinton hostage crisis (Hostagegate? Bombwater?) makes a fine stopwatch with which to measure the speed of breaking news in this new media landscape that, we have been assured, is constantly changing.

The event happened around 12:30 p.m. and the story was broken by WMUR TV in Manchester, NH, posted on their website at 1:14 p.m.

It made the TV news quickly, but who watches television news in the middle of a workday besides journalists? The internet is the preferred delivery system for breaking stories these days, and that’s where we found it (we don’t have a TV in our newsroom). At 1:54, Gawker.com editor Alex Pareene was among the first to make a post.

“I usually leave local cable news net NY1 on most of the day,” he told YES! Weekly in an e-mail. “They repeat every story a million times but they broke in to report a hostage crisis at Clinton’s HQ before I saw it anywhere on the internet. By the time I finished the post MSNBC and Drudge had it too.”

Things happened quickly after that, and by 2:30 the story was all over the web – everywhere that is except the New York Times. The Gray Lady took her time in filing this one, initially relegating it to a slot in its national political blog the Caucus at 3:26 before running a long article on the website in the early evening hours.

It was a fairly simple spot-news story – a man with what may be a bomb, a hostage standoff, a SWAT team and a resolution. Anyone who cared followed the story in real time on the internet as it unfolded, or caught the wrap-up on the nightly television news.

And there were losers in this new media landscape. The staid old daily newspapers, which would once have been a most trusted voice in a situation like this, relegated the story to a small slot in their flimsy Saturday editions, their print product cut from the loop before the presses even got rolling.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.

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