The Revolutions Will Not Be Televised: Ten Things We Learned About the Internet During the Wendy Davis Filibuster

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At one point during Senator Wendy Davis's marathon filibuster yesterday, the hashtag #StandWithWendy started to go viral. By the end of the night, it was trending worldwide along with a number of other related words, phrases and hashtags. Just before midnight, more than 180,000 people were viewing the live stream of the debate on the floor of the Texas Senate. And at not one moment of the filibuster were any national television networks tuned in. There are multiple 24/7 television news networks and none carried one of the most stunning and captivating moments in politics in since the presidential election live. With all due respect to poet-musician Gil Scott-Heron, he was right about one thing, the revolution apparently will not be televised.

While there have certainly been bigger and more important moments in Internet news reporting history -- the Boston Marathon bombing most recent among them -- this is certainly political watershed moment for social media and it helped to reinforce some things we already knew about the power of the web and gave us a few new things to ponder.

10. Being the first is often as important as being the best.

In some ways, this is a bummer because it reinforces the notion that getting to a subject first is more important than getting it right, but such is life in the Internet age. Texas Tribune was the first (and one of the only) to set up a live feed for the filibuster and it was a huge win both for them and for those following the story.


9. Actual politics can be compelling via technology.

There were probably a large number of people online who had no idea what a "parliamentary inquiry" or "point of order" was. There were certainly plenty who didn't know what a parliamentarian was or why some woman in a suit kept feeding the presiding senator information before he responded to questions. Certainly the debate heightened emotions, but with social media serving as a real time glossary, even the most mundane procedural rulings gained gravitas and even felt entertaining.


8. Hashtags and trending topics can mean something.

Of course when #NorthWest is trending, it should serve as notice that plenty of people are interested in completely inane things, but that's true both online and off where TMZ and gossip rags still make serious money. But, it is important to realize that our own stupidity is not an indictment of the tool. Hashtags immediately provide a touchstone for what is happening in the world. They are a serious macro analytic for understanding what people are talking about and they should not be undervalued.


7. Twitter is the source for breaking news.

As if we needed any additional reminders of this fact, minute-to-minute coverage of the filibuster simply let us know that play by play of politics can be as compelling as live tweeting the Academy Awards or the Super Bowl.


6. Facebook is for sharing after the fact.

While Twitter provides instant gratification, Facebook has become a place for reflection after the fact. Oh, sure, people do post in the moment on the social media giant, but not with the same degree of fervor as on Twitter. Instead, users have embraced the sharing of broader information on Facebook that 140 characters doesn't allow. As the two continue both as rivals to each other and companions to denizens of the web, how they are used is changing for the better.


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15 comments
SoSezYou
SoSezYou

I appreciate the story but as a limited Twitter user, I can not for the life of me know HOW it can be the breaking news source when YOU don't know the feed? In other words where do I find references to quick trending news stories that are applicable to me? Just scan down the Twitter trending list? Or is there some other website which breaks down the trending sources? 

Russ McClung
Russ McClung

Not here in the comments section, that's for sure

Noelle A. Perry
Noelle A. Perry

twitter, reddit, FB to some extent. i hardly ever even check news sites anymore. props to the tribune for their coverage on this, though.

Bren Ke
Bren Ke

Well Robert Robertson, that's probably because the major media is getting THEIR news from twitter too!

Bren Ke
Bren Ke

Actually I followed this via Facebook. I have both pro-Life groups on my page, and some Democrats, so I was getting info from both sides. One of the pro-life groups posted about it the evening before, and in the morning. I remember them saying that "she brought her running shoes'. They outlined the rules of the filibusterer really well. I got a post from Mayor Parker talking about how she was having a watch the filibuster party. When the third point of order came through I saw it on FB. I tried to tune into a TV station but they weren't covering it. I found out that the vote was to late the next morning on the radio, but I got the details from the internet (I think FB again) before I did anything else. I don't bother with the media partially because the media have a strong liberal bias, but also because they very rarely get their facts right. If the story is simple, (like a car crash) generally they get it right, but if it is complex or involves details, probably not. For example, the important part of this story was the rules of the fillibuster, how she had to stand, talk about just the subject at hand, and not wander off topic or get a point of order. THAT was the key to the story... how her filibuster might end and what she had to do to keep it going. The media didn't even mention any of that. Doubt they understood it.

BlueTexasMom
BlueTexasMom

The net has been an invaluable source of instant information for a long time. Twitter's definitely better than any other tool I've seen in the many years I've been online.

Lisa Sauter
Lisa Sauter

I'm so glad I got to watch this via the Texas Tribune.

Robert Robertson
Robert Robertson

i get all my breaking news from twitter usually well before major media reports it.

jamie_b_wagner
jamie_b_wagner

I would argue that YouTube didn't perform as well as I had hoped. In the end I kept having to refresh my feed every 15 seconds or so to keep it live. I watched for hours and along with the 180K saw that the vote didn't happen in time, even as the big media reported that it had passed.  Knew that the vote wouldn't stand, too many witnesses boys.  It was thoroughly entertaining and what reality television ought to look like.

CindyF
CindyF

Great article.  I want to also note that Christopher Dido picked up the live stream job when the Senate shut theirs down (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/christopherdido) - between that & twitter, the coverage was riveting.  I was very disappointed when ABC's overnight news World News Now reported (well after it was all over) that "Republicans are celebrating in Texas..." I msg'd them & they corrected.  Almost 100% of the news organizations that I follow on fb got it wrong the first time.  Major fail.  Go to the ustream link to see some of Dido's coverage.  Great interviewing combined with just talking to folks.  At one point he was wondering if his car would still be there as he had just dumped it on the curb and run into the capital when he got the call to get there and start streaming.  And, don't leave out the screen print grabs that everyone got when they tried to "go back in time" and change the date of the vote!  Can't make this up.

MadMac
MadMac

This is big stuff. Excellent article, Mr. Balke. I know what I'll be tweeting when I'm off Uncle Sugar's dime.

SoSezYou
SoSezYou

@David Aulds But Faux News is A Okay, right? 

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