Late Monday night, news hit Reddit that shots broke out at a house party in Danzig, Toronto. One curious Redditor, BitchslappedByLogic, took matters into his own hands to piece together the sequence of events and even identify specific victims and suspects.
The original thread in /r/toronto has since generated 1,000+ comments, having quickly gone viral on Reddit and around the web, as a prime example of how news stories can break online with information collected in real time.
Using only Twitter and YouTube as his sources, BitchslappedByLogic thoroughly scoured the social networks, deducing that the incident left two people dead and more than 20 injured.
Apparently, it was this guy's party, as he says here. He'd been planning this party since July 7th. The pictures indicate that a 'hennesey party' is exactly what it sounds like: a party w/ lots of hennesey liquor provided.
This person was shot. As was this person. This person was also shot -- twice. This person was also shot, according to this tweet. This may be her in recovery, though I can't be sure. It is, in any case, someone recovering from a gunshot wound.
BitchslappedByLogic told What's Trending, "I'm a naturally curious and skeptical person. If I see something that interests me, I seek out information about that thing. I've done this since I was a kid (using books and libraries) and continue to do so now with the web and social media."
Using Google, Twitter's basic search tool, and a bit of knowledge of search operators (e.g. "hennessy party scarborough" vs "hennessy party, scarborough -england"), he was able to track down the information he needed. He then meticulously cited his sources and opened up a conversation online, piecing together the sequence of events faster than any local or traditional publication was able to do.
Local papers even tried to contact the Twitter handles that BitchslappedByLogic had already identified. Even though some of the Twitter users resorted to deleting their tweets and making their accounts private in order to escape media attention, the Reddit user had already screencapped the necessary information, with help from some Reddit informants who were keeping him updated.
It seems like there could be risk involved with digging to the center of such a violent occurrence. But the Redditor wasn't worried.
"It was all already online," he said. "In most cases I was simply relaying what other people had said by linking to them on Twitter. I don't look at it as 'revealing' much, because the tweeters did a fine job of that themselves."
The response to his exposing the events has been strong, but mixed. Major media outlets picked up the story, some claiming that BitchslappedByLogic's efforts will revolutionize journalism, while others are writing them off as useless.
"In any case people are talking about it, which is great," he said. "I think traditional media can learn a lesson or two from how this all played out, and starting a dialogue is the first step towards change."
The Reddit thread also provides a fascinating glimpse at how a breaking news story can develop with input from the public, those involved in an event, and those willing to go out of their way to learn more.
"The community interaction was invaluable," BitchslappedByLogic said. People close to the shooting were contributing their own photos, correcting his spelling, and digging around to find leads of their own. In a sense, he built his own online web of fact-checkers and copyeditors.
He's even heard from the victims' families, stating, "I've received multiple PMs from people who claim to live in the community (though obviously I can't confirm any locations); they are overwhelmingly positive and I was floored to receive them."
So, the question remains: are we seeing an emerging model for a modern day newsroom?
It is at a tipping point," offered BitchslappedByLogic. "Thanks to the web and social media there is a wealth of information out there regarding every possible thing: people, places, events...All of it is basically one giant text document, easily searchable and mostly archived."
The common man can now take on the role of reporter from his own remote computer screen and keyboard, considering how much information can be weeded through and distributed online.
But BitchslappedByLogic addresses the one issue that has become a major point of debate: verification. He notes that although he can link to his sources, he can't concretely verify the identities of the tweeters, whereas a traditional reporter is armed with the resources to help him accomplish crucial fact-checking.
Perhaps there is a hybrid of traditional and modern journalism that we should be looking to create.
The Redditor confirmed that he'll be checking more traditional sources in a couple of days to see if their information matches up with his own online reporting, but if he ever wants real-time news, he looks to social media.
"And the next time I hear of a breaking event, I'm not tuning in to a newspaper's website," he said. "I'm heading to the social web, armed with my keyboard and some search know-how."