As society converges online, information—and conclusions—are spreading more quickly than ever before

There was a time when one needed years of training and experience to be trusted when it came to providing the public with the news of the day. However, that time has come and passed, and in recent years, some of the most influential news reporters have been plain old citizens. All one needs is to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right device. When all hell breaks loose, bystanders become journalists, and while they often do a great job of informing the public, people often forget to wait for all the facts.

Last year in Ferguson, for instance, it was a tweeted photo that brought to public attention the fact that a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, and during the ensuing uprisings, a citizen journalist was briefly taken into police custody alongside two professionals. Because of Twitter, a social network that provides a common platform for everyone, the details of the situation spread like wildfire; within minutes, a small town in Missouri was soon the center of the nation's attention. Just a few years ago, the headlines wouldn't come about until the next morning.

However, because information is entering people's heads at a rapid pace, so too are conclusions. After seeing one photo, a great deal of people decided that officer Darren Wilson acted purely out of racial prejudice, and this narrative spread just as quickly (if not more so) as the actual facts. Days later, when the results of a thorough investigation failed to bring about enough evidence to hand criminal charges upon Wilson, the Twitterverse was outraged. As it turns out, the in-the-moment tweets of citizen journalists didn't tell the full story, but for many, they told enough to make a premature conclusion.

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