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oscar pistorius

Oscar Pistorius and social media: behind the followers, hangouts and frenzy

You’ve got to have been hiding under a rock not to know about the Oscar Pistorius case unfolding in Pretoria and on almost every news website globally. The world’s global off and online media have physically scrummed to get into the courtroom as global viewership has soared in what is set to be the court case of 2013.

Graeme Lipschitz: Columnist
Graeme Lipschitz is the co-founder of digital innovation agency Wonderland Works where he heads up Social Media, Search and Product Development. He was previously the business development... More

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What’s heightened the interest in the case, apart from the incredibly bizarre circumstances of Reeva Steenkamp’s death, is the realtime reporting and discussion going on on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Hashtags on Twitter have caused #OscarPistorius to trend globally and access to the courtroom has caused previously obscure journalist Barry Bateman to gain 100 000 followers overnight.

See also: 17 top journos to follow on Twitter during the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing

Some news sources have taken to bragging about how popular they’ve become as they’ve achieved all time unique browser figures, indeed, Facebook referrals for the breaking news story received 5 times the usual shares on News24. More importantly, though, real-time sharing on social media networks has created a multitude of different expert and non-expert commentary on the case.

“Liveblog” has become a buzz word during this case as many news sources scramble to put together the plethora of case information and past stories that may be relevant to this case. UK’s The Guardian has done some great work with regards to drawing out the picture for viewers as well as recording video of the case while South Africa’s Mail & Guardian has used its archive of articles to create some context.

See also: 6 liveblogs that will keep you up to date with the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing

Eyewitness News journalist Mandy Wiener has been doing a sterling job of reporting on the each day’s activity via a Google+ Hangout which allows multiple influencers to partake in a live discussion about an event. Crucially, each Hangout isn’t lost to the ether once it ends, it is then safely stored on YouTube for viewing at the user’s convenience.

It’s not just a free access show without consequences though, as online media lawyer Paul Jacobsen points out in his latest blog “…drawing conclusions about Pistorius’ guilt and publishing those conclusions online can lead to a defamation claim down the line.” So best if we keep our opinions to ourselves and let the professionals get on with it.