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Opening Arguments

Brave new world

Oh, yeah:

There, of course, have been awful weeks before, terrible tragedies, death, war, uncertainty, raw fear.

But this time, in our full-on, post-Sept. 11 surveillance society and freshly Twitterized media, we were able to experience each event in excruciating, exquisite detail.

Through the saturation of social media, we were also able to experience it equally, whether reporting from the streets of Boston or the scorched explosion site in Texas, from newsrooms in New York or Los Angeles or Berlin, or from our own living rooms and college dorm rooms.

This week, these awful events have cemented the reality that the media is now everyone, anyone with a computer or a smartphone, a Twitter account or a Facebook page.

The Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 was the first major news event reported largely via Facebook, with older journalists whose already outdated tactic of using a telephone enlisting the help of younger ones to reach students.

It was those students who first figured out, through a process of elimination on social media, who was dead.

Now, we sit at our kitchen tables and monitor live feeds of police scanners as they close in, and decide whether or not to open a tweeted file purporting to contain a photo of the dead suspect in a Boston morgue.

As the endless loop of the security camera video of the suspects and their homemade bombs continues to crowd our minds, the questions rain down about whether this new media world is good or bad. Whether the old media, leaning ever more heavily on the new, has been enhanced or embarrassed by it.

I don't know whether this "new media world" is good or bad. It just is, so it's up to us to accept it and make it as good as we can. I also suspect we're getting close to the point where it will sound silly to keep talking about the "new" media and the "old" media. Everybody is out there on social media, from retired steeelworkers to suburban moms to professional news gatherers. Some will make money in this new environment -- but not as many as made money before and not as much money. While most people in the business have beeb obsessing over the disappearance of print, what's really at risk is the whole advertising-supported mass media construct.

As for all those ssecurity cameras, the events of last week have created mixed feelings in me. I still worry about the loss of our privacy -- and even the erosion of our expectations of privacy. But it was impossible to miss how valuable all that surveillance was in zeroing in on a couple of scary guys.