rabble turns 10! Our story: Redefining citizen journalism -- babblers cover 9/11

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On April 18, 2011, rabble celebrated its 10th anniversary. Highlighting 10 important moments of rabble's history over the course of our 10th year, current and former people involved with rabble have been asked to share their personal highlights from their time with rabble. This monthly rabble history series elaborates on some of the most common highlights submitted.

We also know that many of you have your own ideas of what the highlights of rabble's 10 years have been, and we want to know what you think. If you have thoughts on how you'd like to see us grow, please share as well in the comments section below.

September 11, 2001 is a date that is etched in people's memories around the world. The horrific attacks have forever altered the geo-political landscape with effects that are still evident today. Nearly a decade later, controversy still surrounds what actually happened on that day. As the twin towers were collapsing, numerous mainstream media sites crashed due to increased web traffic. Millions of people were seeking more information, and in response, rabble's discussion forum, babble, became an integral part of 9/11 coverage. Becoming an example of crowd-sourcing at its finest, babblers began sharing links to news and updates from a wide variety of sources (see other threads here, here and here).

Tonya Surman, rabble's first and only business manager, and Judy Rebick, rabble's founder, both remember being in the middle of a rabble staff meeting when the attacks occurred. "At first we didn't realize how serious the attack was. Once we did, we saw that our babblers were following news all around the world," recalls Rebick.

That babble news thread was promoted to the lead item on rabble by Jude MacDonald, the editor at the time, and babblers were then asked to use separate threads for speculation and personal responses.

"We got a good idea of what social media could accomplish on that day because readers of rabble were getting the multiple perspectives of news from all over the world, including the Middle East," continued Rebick.

Other rabble staff members Michelle Langlois, a former babble moderator, and blogger Krystalline Kraus clearly recall the significance of rabble's 9/11 coverage. Kraus called it "the first awesome use of babble," and elaborated, saying "rabble help[ed] to facilitate Canadian coverage -- and later cover events itself -- during and after the 9/11 attacks, especially when mainstream media sites were crashing due to volume hits so people were turning to rabble for news."

This demonstrates the unique and necessary role of rabble as a media source, and as Kim Elliott, rabble's publisher points out, babblers' 9/ll coverage was very innovative 10 years ago.

"In a time before Facebook and Twitter, babble crowd-sourced knowledge of what was really happening as the twin towers fell, with members across the country, and beyond, participating."

Frank Preyde, a babble moderator, illustrates the collective significance of September 11, 2001 when he notes that: "We all remember where we were as we watched the horror unfold, and for me and many others that place was babble."

The babble response also helped contribute to an expanded definition of citizen-powered journalism. "I think what happened on this site that day helped define and expand the concept of citizen journalism, with people from all over looking at different types of sources, both immediate and background, and reporting back to the board with their findings and feelings. We were all at least figuratively holding hands and holding each other up through this," he explains.

Elaborating on the emotional aspects of the event, Jane Will, rabble's original web mistress, was impressed with babble's role as not only a 9/11 news source, but as a place to discuss and process thoughts and feelings about the event and its implications as well. "While the mainstream media kept playing the footage of the planes crashing into the towers, the babble community pointed each other to information as it became available. They also provided a place where people could talk about how they were feeling. There was significant respect for a variety of viewpoints," she recalls.

The nature of media and news coverage was forever altered on September 11, 2001. As evinced by the organic information sharing of babblers, rabble's role as an independent and alternative news source was solidified.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is a former rabble intern and writer of the rabble history series.

Further Reading

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