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Pannunzio: The news in tweets and texts

It's Thursday morning, and I have not yet turned on a television set. Yet I am also aware that former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is dead.

I first got word in a text from a buddy of mine about an hour ago in his own inimitable style: "Gadhafi ... done" is all it said. Seeing as I usually get texts from him during sporting events that say things like "Redskins ... done?" I figured this is the real deal.

A CNN alert on my cell phone confirmed the news, and I have already passed it on to someone three time zones away. And the coffee's not even on yet.

As the world has hopped on the information superhighway, news travels faster and faster. I still want to see the news from a trusted source, so getting that bulletin from CNN was important. Yet my friend is pretty plugged into things most of the time, so that text message served as a good tip.

The Gadhafi story has been unfolding for months, and he was seen at times as the rebels in Libya were hunting him down. That ends up being a continuing story with incremental reporting as far as we are concerned at the newspaper. Day-to-day decisions on where the story would go have been based on what else is happening elsewhere in the world, and whether whatever action took place was important enough to nose its way onto the front page.

Some days it wasn't. The Libya story might play inside for a week, or not even be in the paper. But it was something that was followed since it seemed like they could catch Gadhafi at any time.

Contrast that to the end for Osama bin Laden last spring. I was with former Daily staff writer Robert King at a Washington Capitals playoff game. They lost to Tampa Bay in overtime that Sunday night and we filed out of the Verizon Center and onto a Yellow Line train to Alexandria.

We were both looking at Twitter and there was something rumbling. The president had scheduled an address for 10:30 p.m. and it had already been pushed back once. What was that all about, we wondered. Most of the tweeters seemed to think it was either the Marines landing in Libya or Osama had been captured. When a tweet came across from CBS Radio News that it was the latter, I started telling people and they got out their phones to check the news as well.

I dropped Robert off at his place and the reports of people gathering at the White House began to circulate. The reporter in me wanted to go check it out, but the practical person who hates to drive in D.C. won out, and I returned to the valley, trying to take in what it meant: Osama's death and the way people found out about it.

Social media does a lot of things well, and the reporting of Gadhafi's death on Thursday is another example of that. I just looked at my Twitter feed, and the story is still developing, although CNN and CBS both say he is dead, and any number of folks have starting putting up snarky comments I will enjoy later.

To get the full story, I hope people will still turn to traditional media, especially newspapers and their website companions, for the in-depth coverage we can provide. I also hope this puts to rest the question of whether it's Kahdafi, Qadaffi, or Gadhafi.
And I thought I had a tough last name to spell.

• Charles Pannunzio is the assistant managing editor of the Daily.

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