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Journalism versus the Zombies

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The dead rising from their graves to consume the living and overrun the earth, like so many other new trend stories, first broke on Twitter.

In its entirety, the tweet that shook the world read "OMG ded guy just totes 8 my arm!!!" It won the first Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Twittering, beating out "They wont stop comming," "Decapitated Nana :(" and "seriously screw all you guys. I did my best to ask a range of things."

News of the zombie apocalypse swarmed through the Twittersphere, then the blogosphere, the statusphere, the vlogosphere, the Facebookosphere, the Xangasphere, the LavaLifeosphere, the mesosphere for some reason and the screamingmobosphere.

Twitter also caught what is debatably the only first-person account of the change from human to fleshy ghoul. However, experts argue whether the "Must save humanity gagdaaaaad BY TEARING OPEN THEIR THROATS AND DEVOURING THEIR INNARDS!!!" tweet actually documents the transformation or if it was just an insight into the mind (brains?) of tweet author Sam Zell.

New media again besting old, cell phone cameras caught the first images and videos of the undead mobs. The technorati called it a victory for "citizen journalists," using an academic media term that replaces the previous phrase, "witnesses who own cameras."

But it was the "Totes 8" tweet, as it came to be known, that spurred the traditional journalistic world into action.

Upon notification of the lines, CNN convened an emergency televised roundtable on what it means for the newspaper industry that Twitter broke the story. Panelists included new media guru Jeff Jarvis (possibly pre-zombification) and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, both of whom showed up already in makeup and with their own lapel microphones.

During the panel, "Totes 8" tweet author Sarah Lacy, now sporting a blood-caked chainsaw jury-rigged to replace her missing arm, did two things that shocked fellow panelist and New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt.

First, the TechCrunch blogger Lacy said newspapers, television and radio would never be able to cover as rapidly developing a situation as the zombie uprising. Second, she messily devoured Lou Dobbs.

Despite Lacy's words (and the 17 repeated screams of "is too!" when asked to back her claims), the fourth estate was already at work across the nation.

TV stations sent their bustiest reporters boldly into the fray as newer and better logos were designed. Morning shows asked viewers to text in their opinions of death by zombies - text 1 for "The undead should not eat our babies," text 2 for "The undead should."

"The undead should not" won decisively, except on Fox News.

In the newspaper world, editorial boards for papers of all sizes stayed late into the night debating what their sites' click poll questions should be.

"How have the living dead affected your weekend plans?" "What household tools are you using to sever the head?" and "Which of these celebrities would YOU like to see devoured by the voudoun monsters?" ended up being the most common poll questions. Top responses at the end of this article.

It was a victory for the new world of journalism, as people being ripped apart by the reanimated cannibals reported they felt more connected than ever to the news-making process. Front pages across the country screamed, "THE ZOMBIE MENACE: How's our coverage? Readers weigh in."

But there were failings.

Although by dint of its portability, ubiquity and authority, radio was seen as a likely means of getting needed information to the people, most FM stations continued the tradition of having wacky zoo crew DJs joke about their wives' inadequacies for 16 hours a day.

Unfortunately for seekers of harder, more relevant news, it was pledge week on NPR.

While the sound of Ira Glass' whiny, all-knowing voice did repel some zombies, it spurred others into deadlier frenzy. Click and Clack, however, offered one caller some solid advice on the best family sedan in which to flee a major metro area.

And we all know of the legions of zombies laid waste by the bloody heroics of Nina "The Decapitator" Totenberg.

Back in the realm of tech journalism, social networking services, despite their early victories, proved to be a liability among people looking for facts, research or reliability.

Tweets claiming to be from the living but later traced to members of the undead - "They can't see you if you stay perfectly still," "They fear fluffy pillows" and "Sweet Baby Ray's is a good topical repellent" - led countless Twitterers to their deaths. This left millions unaware of what minor celebrities are eating for lunch.

Over at Facebook, founder Mark Zuckerberg was roundly chastised by users for taking advantage of the chaos to unveil another, even uglier redesign.

In total, the zombie uprising led to over 65 million deaths, 118 million undeaths and the bankruptcy of another 12 major daily newspapers.

And zombie Jeff Jarvis is still at large.

Top click poll top responses: 1) Completely cancelled weekend plans. 2) Chainsaw or other gardening implement. 3) The cast of High School Musical.