|| Author: Duncan Riley|Tags:

9/11 and the Rise of New Media

Ten years on we remember those that fell in perhaps that most tragic day in American, let alone 21st century world history. The day that terror came to America’s shore.

Nothing excuses the tragedy that was the 11th of September 2001, even ten years hence. As a citizen of the internet I’ve heard every single conspiracy theory, and even those who blame American imperialism. Nothing cuts through to the fact that thousands of innocent people lost their lives that day. Not one single thing.

In the history of new media (as someone who has written about it since 2002) we often quote Matt Drudge and his exposure of the Monika Lewinsky scandal as being the tipping point for the change of guard in media. That was, without doubt, a serious salvo against the old media guard, but it is my belief that ultimately 9/11 drove the rise of new media.

In 2001 there was no YouTube, the tech sector was in virtual ruins post the Web 1.0 bubble, and yet there’s a stand out from 9/11 that I, and many others of this age will continue to remember. 9/11 was the day that user generated content came to the front of reporting. But that was only one aspect, because it was also the day that the emphasis of news switched from those in power, to those who were witness of the tragedy of the day.

By all means, old media had always loved their eyewitness accounts, but 9/11 became a story, over time, that nearly focused exclusively on those who witnessed it. I may sit back here in Australia and not know all, but as I watch documentary after documentary on TV and on the web, the story is about the people of the day, as opposed to the Government and those in power.

Between the fact that user generated content (by means of having actual video and camera shots of the attacks) to the news focus being on those who experienced the day, 9/11 in my opinion became the tipping point between news coverage that switched to the average person on the ground.

It would be flippant to say that is all that did it, and I’d dare not suggest it. But it was that awful day in September that changed the media landscape for ever.

In the era before new media, people in power propelled the news, vs now where the focus has shifted far more to the individual. I see it ten years later, even across the world as I am here in Australia. So much of the coverage here in the old media has been based on people, vs those in charge at the time.

Sure, old media always liked their odd interview or eyewitnesses, but 9/11 shifted to them dominating. But here’s the thing: many of those people had access to the web, and even in this pre-YouTube, early blogging day, for the first time direct observations of such a massive event became available world wide over the internet.

The barriers between what we were told, by the old mass media, and by those who actually experienced it, were finally broken.

9/11 in itself was a tipping point, but it’s what happened post 9/11 that created the media landscape we see today.

“Mission Accomplished.”

It needs to stand alone as a statement of how the world changed post 9/11. The world, and America, having been exposed to user generated content on a mass scale, started to seriously see through the spin of Government and those in charge.

I’d argue that while 9/11 was the tipping point, fairly it was what occurred after 9/11 that has driven new media. But without what came before, the latter did not follow.

Having seen worldwide what users can provide to the news, and with the rise of the internet to nearly every home in the Western World, the spin from Government was finally seen through. The War on Terror, which in itself was a direct result of 9/11, drove home that mainstream media didn’t always report objectively. Even today, the New York Times will call US torture “interrogation” but the same tactics from the Chinese Government are referred to as “torture.”

9/11 set the base where people finally questioned what they were told, and that the truth is often different, even if many of you reading this will argue it in many different directions.

Not just America, but the entire world changed, and the old media beholden to Government mostly failed to pick up on the fact that they were being spun. A void that created a space for the new media sector we have today.

We can credit, by all means, many other factors in the rise of new media: YouTube, blogging (which preceded 9/11), podcasting, smartphones and the ability to post content directly where ever you are.

But there was one amazing, horrible tipping point where we went from old media suckers, to new media advocates. And that was 9/11.

Rest in peace all those that died that day, and my best wishes to all those who are haunted by that day. But remember that one day in September where multiple free citizens recorded what was going on around them, and they were published. From the horror of that day, we now thrive on true freedom of the press. It is, perhaps part of an American dream, and also that of those throughout the world who thrive on freedom. In the worst of tragedies, people were free to report, cover, and tell their story.

America may live on the notion of the land of the free, but people like me (in foreign countries) look on further knowing that on September 11, and going forward, that true freedom was expressed that anyone experiencing those horrific events could record, write and publish about what they felt and experienced.

On this 10th anniversary, Medacity honors those who died that awful September day, and notes that their memories as individuals live on in the hearts and minds of not only their family and friends, but any citizen in a free country that is able to express their opinion online.