In the interactive timeline below, Fusion charted the Twitter activity around #Ferguson for the 16 days between the killing of Michael Brown and his funeral on Aug. 25. The chart maps key moments on social media in the unfolding narrative of protest, grief, and demand for change.
Before the TV cameras arrived in Ferguson last month, the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown was already making news on Twitter. An Aug. 9 tweet by @TheePharoah showing a police officer standing over a body laying in the street was shared nearly 5,000 times, spurring traditional media to catch up.
Now that the mainstream media has packed up its tripods and left town, the persistent flurry of Twitter activity in and about Ferguson illustrates how news stories continue to evolve long after the media's spotlight dims.
Twitter not only reported the story, it helped shape mainstream media's narrative of events. Tweets were rebroadcast by mass media outlets and lent the situation a sense of urgency and significance, assuring the incident didn't "just blow over," according to Dave Karpf, an assistant professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. "It would have been harder to do that without the tools we have today," he says.
As Twitter traffic increased, so too did the number of journalists parachuting into town to cover the event.
Ferguson didn't have the nation-rattling implications of the Arab Spring, or the scope of Occupy Wall Street, but the intensity of Twitter's roar reaffirmed social media's ability to mobilize rapid-response street protests and keep the story going after mainstream media loses interest.
For more, check out this heat map showing tweets from around the world mentioning #Ferguson or related terms from the first 11 days following the shooting of Michael Brown.
Update, Oct. 9, 2014: Protesters took to the street again after police shot and killed a teenager who had opened fire on an off-duty officer, according to authorities.
Graphics by Fusion Interactive.
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Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.