"Is he dead or alive?" "It doesn't matter - run it anyway"

Early Thursday, Oct. 20, news broke that former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi had been captured - and it broke first through social media. The most shocking element of the coverage wasn't Gadhafi's death though - it was the widespread release of unconfirmed reports.


  1. Early Thursday, news broke that former Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi had been captured; and it rapidly flooded Twitter timelines across the world.

    Worldwide trending topics as of 8:00 a.m. Thursday morning included #Gadhafi, Libyan TV, Sirte (the Libyan city where Gadhafi was reportedly captured), and Abel Majid (the National Transitional Council official who reported Gadhafi was injured to Reuters). 

  2. The breaking news drew attention from across the globe, in the form of tweets in a variety of languages.
  3. The strangest part of it all? Gadhafi's status was not confirmed before the story broke.
  4. @Poynter reminded reporters of traditional journalism values; such as making sure viewers, listeners, and readers understood what was true and what was still unconfirmed.

  5. Released reports each said something different - some outlets said the dictator was captured, some said shot, and others said dead. The seemingly contradicting stories left media watchers confused on what to believe.

  6. @Reuters confirmed Gadhafi's death early on from only one source. By midmorning, several news organizations had the story leading their broadcasts - but it was still unconfirmed.

  7. One major news organization failed to weigh in on the Gadhafi deaths - The New York Times minimally updated their twitter feed over the course of the morning, as shown in this article from the Columbian Journalism Review.