A liveblog of the manhunt for the two suspects identified in the Boston Marathon bombings was the top story on Reddit this morning, before being bumped by a profile of the M.I.T. police officer who died in a shootout with the suspects.
The thread highlights the public’s appetite for citizen journalism, but also the inherent weaknesses of such an undertaking.
The coverage is rife with errors, such an early identification of the convenience store robbers as black men. It also reports that the surviving suspect vowed revenge for the death of his brother. The claim proved to come from a troll account.
The coverage originally provided the addresses of the events in progress but subsequently removed them.
As the updates streamed in, Reddit crashed, prompting speculation that traffic for the Boston-area information had overwhelmed its servers.
“I crashed Reddit,” declared JpDeathBlade.
Reddit later said it had been the victim of a malicious DDoS attack, perhaps related to the Watertown coverage.
Reddit moderators also removed one block of coverage. It’s not clear why.
Even while riddled with errors, the amateur coverage drove significant interest, likely because it filled the vacuum left by mainstream outlets who were slower to publish as they double-checked facts and provided more user-friendly formats, such as this map from the New York Times.
The Reddit users seems to have been motivated by a sense of civic responsibility. But the overnight stint as citizen reporter has worked wonders for their online profiles.
“I have over 500 emails, got over 7k followers on twitter and got invites on steam and LoL. I have been flooded, everywhere,” JpDeathBlade wrote.