Over the weekend CNN's Howard Kurtz asked America the burning question, "are we going overboard with this Twitter business?" Meanwhile, CNN virtually ignored an event overseas with the potential to alter world history, an event reported extensively by Twitter users.
On Saturday, as things turned from bad to worse in Iran as thousands of protesters took to the streets in anger to revolt against the sham election in that country, CNN, a cable news network that rose to prominence largely because of its reporting of strife in foreign lands, was virtually silent about the uprising on television and on the web. As pointed out by ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick, "hours after Iranian police began clashing with tens of thousands of people in the street, the top story on CNN.com remains peoples' confusion about the switch from analog TV signals."
CNN's lack of coverage of the burgeoning revolution in Iran and the highly questionable re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arguably America's leading bogeyman at this moment in time, didn't go unnoticed on Twitter, where the hashtag "#CNNFAIL" spread like wildfire and was one of the site's trending topics for a large portion of the day.
All over the world people are monitoring unfolding events in Iran via the internet, where an apparently decisive election victory by the ruling party is being challenged on the streets.
Although there are signs the Iranian government is trying to cut some communications with the outside world, citizen journalism appears to be thriving on the web.
To that end, Twitter served as a vital mode of Iranian citizen communication and as a channel to the outside world after the government shut down much of the web and blocked virtually all cell phone communications. An example:
In what could be viewed as a watershed moment for social networking and the internet in general, here you have an oppressive regime with little tolerance for dissent doing everything in its power to stymie an uprising and failing miserably because of the ability of individuals to bypass the state-controlled media outlets and communicate with each another directly. To think that the very social networking tools conceived as intangible ideas by young Americans just a few short years ago in dorm rooms and basements and garages have now come to fruition as something tangible with the power to influence the course of events halfway across the world—Well, it's kind of breathtaking.
Meanwhile, Howard Kurtz had Rick Sanchez and sportswriter Gregg Doyel on Reliable Sources for an utterly useless but incredibly ironic debate over Twitter's relevance. To his credit Sanchez, a mildly obsessive Twitterer, sort of gets it, mentioning that he interviewed someone in Tehran on his show that he'd met on Twitter, but no one on the show seemed to grasp the fact that the Twitter was in midst of handing CNN its proverbial ass as a news source before, during and after the airing of Reliable Sources.
Finally, though there are some valid criticisms of Twitter, everyone working at CNN should be thoroughly embarrassed of their efforts over the weekend.