The first tweet reporting Michael Brown’s death was two minutes after he crashed to the pavement on Canfield Drive.
There were five million tweets in the week after Brown’s death and 35 million in the months that followed. Protesters with cell phones seized the national agenda, told the story from their points of view, knit together a new national civil rights movement and ripped open the nation’s racial scars.
Social media’s prevailing view of Ferguson - that Brown had been executed, with his hands up and shot in the back - came to dominate many traditional media accounts. Protesters with cell phones created the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot narrative and transmitted it to the world. It turned out the narrative was a myth, but one with great power and truth.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, a new group of activists energized by Ferguson meets monthly to plan reforms, such as the successful effort to elect a new prosecutor in St. Louis. Another group meets to coordinate reforms in health, housing and education.
This report tells the story of how the unprecedented outpouring of social media dominated the Ferguson narrative and organized activists into a new civil rights movement and new reform efforts.
Via the menu in the left hand corner you will find stories categorized into three sections. Social Media describes the scope and power of the web and mobile influence. History tells the unique and important racial history of St. Louis. Reformers tells of reform efforts that grew out of Ferguson. Along the way, you’ll find audio files of interviews with reformers and social media experts. Your comments and observations are welcome. Simply click on Contact to join the conversation.