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Social networks broke the bomb story

Johnson's Russia List facebook badgeIn a growing trend, many Russians found out about the Domodedovo bombing not through TV or other traditional media, but from online social networks.

And state television's lack of coverage hasn't helped matters either, say bloggers.

Indeed, the tweets coming in during the immediate aftermath of last Monday's blast showed eyewitnesses hardly surprised that they ­ and not national TV ­ were informing everyone of what was going on.

"A bomb detonated at Domodedovo, at least 10 victims. And as usual, no official information," blogger Anastasia tweeted a little under an hour after the blast.

Others began noticing the gaping divide straight from Domodedovo.

"Among the national media only vesti24 reported about the explosion at Domodedovo ­ other media sitting in a lonely Kremlin tank," Twitter user Vladimir posted to the #domodedovo group.

The first mainstream news reports broke 10 minutes after a terrorist walked into the international arrivals hall at the airport and detonated a 5-7 kilogramme bomb at 4:32 p.m. Almost immediately, people who were at the airport began posting updates on Twitter.

Once the news was confirmed, major news agencies in Russia started going to Twitter to get the latest eyewitness reports and even police sources.

But national TV stations only started carrying footage from the scene of the bombing nearly two hours after the attack.

Satellite news channel Vesti-24 was among the first TV stations to report on the bombing just after 5 pm, but as Kommersant's media commentator Arina Borodina noted, this subscription channel boasts just 2 per cent of the national audience. Other channels made brief announcements about the attack, and then went back to regular programming, with sitcoms and regular TV shows continuing regardless.

Meanwhile, ratings demonstrated that audiences were anxious to find out more news about the attack. Once footage appeared after 6 pm, viewing figures leapt by to up to 37 per cent at the TV channels that began covering the event.

Analysts said that state-run channels may have had political reasons to delay coverage, comparing their response to foreign channels such as BBC and CNN, which were soon broadcasting updates from Moscow.

But other trends were responsible for the gap as well, experts said.

Gregory Asmolov, a contributing editor at Global Voices, said the coverage of the Domodedovo bombing showed that social media has proven that it can respond faster to important information that should concern a Russian audience.

Reporting from Domodedovo should have been a joint effort between traditional and social media, Asmolov said.

"The lack of coverage from major TV channels left more space for rumours and uncertainty," he told The Moscow News.

Anton Nosik, a leading Russian blogger and one of the founders of the Lenta.ru news site, told The Moscow News that national TV channels were hamstrung by having to wait for their political cue on how to cover the terror attack.

"Federal media are waiting for instructions from above, and that is why the coverage was slow or delayed," Nosik said.

If this tendency persists, social media might soon replace traditional media sources ­ with people starting to trust social media more than national TV.

Several bloggers of North Caucasus origin said they had noticed a change of emphasis in the social media reporting on the Domodedovo bombing.

"The reaction of bloggers was remarkably different compared to the metro attacks last March. We could see there were fewer anti-Muslim posts," Bersan Zaitov, head of the youth group Vainakh Veras, or True Vainakh, an ethnic group that includes the Chechen and Ingush peoples, told The Moscow News.

Different reaction

But society itself has also shown a different attitude towards the bombing ­ people did not seem to be as scared as they were in the past. The more attacks happen, the more accustomed Russians become to the danger of terrorist attacks, experts said.

Olga Savina, assistant professor at the Extreme Psychology department at Moscow State University, said there was no major panic from people who watched news about the terrorist attack on TV.

"People, unfortunately, begin to perceive such events as casual, in a very detached way," RIA Novosti quoted her as saying.

This is in contrast to the reaction towards terror attacks in the past.

When hundreds died in the bombings of whole apartment blocks in Moscow in 1999, many thousands of people mobilised to control and patrol residential areas across the country.

But psychological response is often delayed, Savina added.

"Some people may get a deferred psychological trauma in six months - panic and fear can break out after a sufficiently long period of time," she said.

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